Wreck on Hwy. 6

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 11, 2008

Two-vehicle wreck claims life of Ole Miss department head

By Billy Davis and Rupert Howell

A University of Mississippi professor died Wednesday afternoon in a two-vehicle automobile accident west of Batesville.

Dr. James R. Woolsey, 72, was pronounced dead on the scene after his Volkswagen Jetta veered into the westbound lane of Highway 6. The Volkswagen then struck the rear tire of an 18-wheeler.

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A Miss. Highway Patrol spokesman said Woolsey hit the truck about 200 yards west of the Batesville city limits.

An autopsy performed Wednesday night showed that Woolsey died from injuries sustained in the automobile accident, said Panola County coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge.

“There was some question about the cause of death since witnesses said he drifted into the west lane, ” said the coroner. “But the autopsy showed he did not die from natural causes.”

At Ole Miss, Woolsey worked in the School of Engineering where he served as director of the Miss. Mineral Resources Institute.

The automobile accident occurred in front of Batesville Auto Center, a used car lot located at Highway 6 and Farrish Gravel Road. Inside the business, owner Cecil Marable and employee Billy Faulkner said they heard the vehicles collide.

“It sounded like someone blew out a tire,” said Faulkner.

Marable described the noise as a “sonic boom.”

Once outside, Faulkner said he saw the 18-wheeler’s rear axle dragging along the highway. The truck stopped about a quarter-mile down the road.

The truck driver was identified as Billy Aaron, 51, of Courtland, said MHP spokesman Sgt. Leslie White.

White said MHP trooper Shane Phelps is investigating the accident.