A former MSU student is killed when a women driving the wrong way in a stolen car on Highway 82 crashes into his car at high speed near downtown Columbus early Saturday morning.
And friends of the man, identified by Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant as 24-year-old Michael Ian Reed, dodged the oncoming car but witnessed their friend crash.
The woman, identified by Merchant as 43-year-old Kimberly Denise Neal, of Aberdeen, also died.
The accident happened at about 12:05 a.m. in the left passing lane of Highway 82 eastbound near the end of the Main Street on-ramp to Highway 82.
The wrong-way car was a 2013 Toyota Prius that had been reported stolen at about 11:30 p.m. on Matson Road in eastern Lowndes County. The car got on Highway 82 going westbound in the eastbound lanes at the Lee Stokes Road ramp — the last interchange on Highway 82 before entering Alabama.
Several drivers on Highway 82 eastbound reported the car coming west and said they tried to flash their lights and use other efforts to stop or alert the driver, who was said to be driving at a high rate of speed.
As the car approached the Main Street ramp, one of the cars headed eastbound into Columbus swerved to avoid the oncoming car only to have it smash head-on into the white 2004 Toyota Camry driven by Reed, who apparently was on his way with his friends to his apartment on Holly Hills Road in Columbus, Merchant said.
Neal made it from Lee Stokes Road to the accident scene in six minutes, according to Merchant. Records indicate she’s been cited more than 20 times for traffic and alcohol-related offenses, but it is unclear of the disposition of all those cases.
Few skid marks were at the scene, indicating neither driver had much time to try to stop or avoid the other car.
“There were no skid marks, neither car tried to stop or anything,” Merchant said.
Both drivers were wearing seat belts. Both were pronounced dead at the scene, Merchant said.
While investigators aren’t sure, there is a chance Neal may have been trying to get to West Point, where her mother lives.
The circumstances of the stolen car also still are under investigation. The man from whom the car was stolen told authorities he had only recently met the woman and was trying to help her out. Her husband is in prison, authorities said.
The highway was blocked for almost two hours while the wreckage was cleared.
Reed’s family is from Huntsville, Ala., and Ocean Springs, Miss.
The accident was the second double-fatality, wrong-way crash in North Mississippi in less than 24 hours.
At about 10 a.m. Friday on Interstate 22 west of New Albany near the Myrtle exit, 48-year-old Jerome Young, of Nettleton, was driving east in the westbound lanes when his vehicle collided head-on with one driven by 79-year-old Mervyn Epsman, of Warrior, Ala. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.