SWEETWATER, TN – Four people, including two young children, were killed Friday afternoon, Oct 22, when they were involved in a truck accident on a rural highway in McMinn County, Tennessee.
The tragic collision between the passenger car and a Wal-Mart semi trailer truck occurred just west of the city of Sweetwater on Tennessee State Highway 68 near the juncture with McMinn County Road 292. The accident area is in the southeast corner of the state, between the cities of Chattanooga and Knoxville, about 75 miles north of Dalton, Georgia and about 165 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina.
Early Friday afternoon 33 year old Jason Hall of London, Kentucky was driving a 2003 International semi trailer truck west on Tennessee State Highway 68 through rural McMinn County, TN. The tractor trailer truck belonged to the Wal-Mart Corporation and was carry a cargo of general store merchandise and dry food products. The destination of the semi truck is not known. Wal-Mart Corporate is based in Bentonville, Arkansas.
The deadly truck accident occurred at about 1:00 p.m. Friday afternoon as the westbound semi trailer moved on TN Highway 68 at the same time a sedan with four occupants was traveling eastbound on the highway.
According to police, 20 year old Christan Wagner was driving a red 1996 Dodge Neon east on TN Highway 68. There were three passengers in the car, 25 year old Michael Shell, and his two young sons, a 2 year old and an 11 month old baby. All four were from Madisonville, TN, and Ms. Wagner was reported to be pregnant. The four are from the same family but it is unclear how they are related.
As the two vehicles approached each other from opposite directions on the highway Ms. Wagner suddenly lost control of the Dodge Neon for unknown reasons near the juncture with McMinn County Road 292. The passenger car crossed over the center dividing line and directly into the path of the westbound Wal-Mart semi trailer truck. The truck driver did not have time or space to swerve out of the way and collided head-on with the sedan. The force of the truck accident crushed the smaller vehicle.
After hitting the Dodge Neon the Wal-Mart 18 wheeler went off the highway and partially up an embankment, with the smaller sedan stuck to the undercarriage of the truck. The impact of the truck accident broke open the trailer, allowing some of the cargo to spill onto the roadway. At least one gas tank was damaged and diesel fuel leaked out. The fuel ignited and the flames quickly engulfed the cab of the semi trailer.
Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers and local emergency personnel rushed to the site of the fiery crash. Paramedics reached the young people in the car but found that all four had suffered fatal injuries in the truck accident. According to officials it appears that they died immediately upon impact.
The truck driver was able to escape the semi before it caught on fire and was not injured in the truck accident.
Troopers shut down a section of TN Highway 68 around the crash site while the emergency teams worked. Firefighters eventually extinguished the flames on the semi cab and were able to keep it from spreading to the trailer section and the car. However the semi’s cab was destroyed in the truck accident fire.
Highway crews were brought to the site of the deadly collision and worked to remove the lost cargo and other debris off the road. Tow trucks were brought to the site of the truck accident to remove the wreckage of the passenger car and the burnt shell of the semi’s cab.
The area of TN Highway 68 would remain closed for more than five hours after the truck accident, extending into early Friday evening.
Officials are still reconstructing the truck accident and trying to determine the exact cause. Although they believe the collision occurred when the Dodge Neon crossed into the opposite lane of traffic they have not released information on why the driver lost control of her car. Drugs and alcohol are not considered factors in the crash.
The truck driver is not expected to be charged in the collision. The truck accident remains under investigation.
For more information about Tennessee trucking laws, truck injury causes and victims’ rights, contact truck accident lawyers Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP for truck accident advice. Visit our TN truck accident lawyer page for more information about Tennessee truck accidents. For a free initial consultation, talk to a truck accident attorney at 1.800.773.6770.