Vicksburg student believed killed in car wreck

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 13, 2009

A fatal wreck outside Eupora in Webster County is believed to have killed a Vicksburg college senior.

The fiery, one-car crash, which occurred around 7:30 a.m. Friday, involved a 2005 Ford Mustang registered in Warren County.

However, officials have not positively identified 22-year-old Derrick Beard, a biology major at Mississippi State University, as the fatality.

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“Until we have a positive identification, we are not releasing any information,” said Webster County Coroner Steve Wells. “The family to which that vehicle was registered was contacted, and information from the family is being used to help identify the person we believe it was.”

Friends and neighbors of Beard’s parents — Mike and Barbara Beard — who had gathered at the family’s 127 Brookwood Drive home Saturday confirmed the couple had been contacted by the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and were told that their son’s car was the one in question.

“They’re positive that it’s him,” said neighbor Anna Jones. “They just haven’t identified him yet.”

Wells said local 911 officials received a call that a vehicle had plunged off U.S. 82 and was on fire. Mississippi Highway Safety patrolmen, Wells and other officials responded and spent several hours investigating at the scene, about 3 miles west of Eupora.

The vehicle had been eastbound, Wells said. While forensic tests were incomplete, he said indications were that the car left the roadway, became airborne, crashed through some trees and landed in a creek. It subsequently burned, Wells said.

Authorities also searched the area and did not find any other people, and do not believe anyone else was in the car, he said.

A MHSP spokesperson was unable to be reached Saturday.

It was unclear why Beard would have been in the Eupora area, a town about 30 miles west of Starkville and east of Interstate 55, or why he was traveling east. Curtis Robertson, Beard’s best friend and a fellow senior at Mississippi State, said there was speculation Beard was going to or returning from a trip to Hattiesburg. “I think he took a wrong turn,” he said.

Wells said investigators would likely try dental records first to positively identify the victim, and if that failed would use DNA samples. “We are hopeful we will know in the next two or three days,” he said.

Robertson, 23, grew up with Beard and as a pre-teen played baseball with him before the two went to different high schools.

“He was my hunting buddy,” Robertson said.

Neighbor Bill Jones said hunting was Beard’s passion and that he excelled at it. “He went every chance he got.”

Beard was a 2006 graduate of Warren Central High School where he played third base on the baseball team. His friends also knew him as a kid with a great sense of humor who loved jokes and playing tricks on people.

“Did he ever have a sense of humor!” said Bill Jones, who watched Beard grow from a little boy. “He loved to play jokes on people — he played a few on me. He was so funny when you would least expect it.”

Randy Broome, assistant principal at Vicksburg High School coached Beard at Warren Central.

“One thing about Derrick was, he showed up every day ready to work,” Broome said. “He hung in there in the good times and the bad. I was blessed to have a kid like that to coach.”

“I’ll always remember him and the other boys playing in the dirt together and playing baseball out at Culkin,” Bill Jones said. “He and my son grew up together. They were great kids.”

“Things like this break our hearts,” Broome said. “We’re not supposed to see our kids pass before us. I’ve talked with some of the other coaches and our thoughts are with the family.”

Mike and Barbara Beard also have a daughter, Candace, 25.

Glenwood Funeral Home has been contacted regarding funeral arrangements.

Contact Pamela Hitchins at