Michael Couch, 16, dies in wreck

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 26, 2002

A one-vehicle accident on County Road 70 Thursday night claimed the life of a popular Andalusia High School student-athlete.

According to a spokesperson with the Alabama State Troopers, Michael Alan Couch, 16, was fatally injured in an accident occurring at approximately 9:05 p.m.

Couch was driving a 1996 Ford Mustang at the time of the accident.

Friday was an emotional day at the school, with one student noting that there were many tears and also many students taking advantage of counseling being conducted in the school's library.

A massive prayer session was also conducted on the school's football field, with several students attending .

Andalusia High School Head Football Coach Paul Woolley said Couch will be missed greatly, adding that Couch had always given a solid effort on the field.

"I have never seen (Couch) try as hard as he had during the last four weeks or so," said Woolley. "He was trying so hard in workouts and in practice and was really enjoying it. He did not say a lot, but he just always put forth the effort."

He said Couch's teammates and coaches are still shaken deeply by the youngster's death.

"We are devastated," said Woolley. "Right now it's just a matter that we are shutting down football operations until Monday, because football has taken a back seat to something more important. Right now (Couch's death) can either pull the team together or deflate us, so we will just have to wait and see what happens."

LBW Junior College Athletic Director and Head Baseball Coach Steve Helms, who coached Couch in American Legion Post 82 summer baseball competition said Couch was truly a joy to coach and be around.

"(The past summer) was the first year I have coached (Couch) and he was a true leader," said Helms. "All of the kids looked up to him and looked to do what he did. He was always happy and I have never dealt with him when he was unhappy and he was just amazing. I am going to change my number to 34 (in honor of Couch) and I just loved him.

Helms said Couch was a leader by example, who was not afraid to be vocal when he needed to, and

always led in a positive fashion.

The coach also said Couch was blessed with God-given athletic ability.

"He could play anywhere on the field and he could run, catch and hit home runs, and he had God-given talent," said Helms. "He was an outstanding player who was always willing to do what you say. I played him at second base, third base, shortstop, pitcher, catcher and right field and center field, and he never asked why when I played him at any position.

Helms said he is basically devastated by the loss of Couch.

"It's definitely not fun right now," said Helms.

Couch is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mike Couch; a brother, Zachary Michael Couch; his paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert. E. Couch and his maternal grandmother, Mrs. Karen Vann, all of Andalusia; his paternal grandfather, Vernon Mims, of St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as several aunts and uncles and cousins.

Funeral services are set for 4 p.m today at the First Baptist Church of Andalusia.

Trooper James Davis responded to the scene of the fatal wreck.

At least two others were injured in automobile accidents which also occurred Thursday night, according to State Troopers.

At approximately 9:40 p.m., a one-vehicle wreck occurred on U.S. 84 and County Road 42 near the Sanford community.

Injured in the accident was Gena Padgett from Evergreen, who was driving a 1997 Pontiac Sunfire.

Then, Thursday night at 10:15 p.m. another one-vehicle accident resulted in injuries to another Andalusia resident.

Luke Popwell, 16, of Andalusia was injured in an accident that occurred on County Road 43.

Popwell was driving a 1999 Ford Expedition at the time of the accident. According to various sources, Popwell received various injuries including a broken leg.