Driver Is Freed,
Open At 7:25 A.M.
BY BILL JONES
Three people, including a state trooper, were injured about 11:15 p.m. Sunday when a southbound tractor-trailer on Interstate 81 in Greene County collided with a truck that was installing reflectors on the road surface and knocked it into a Tennessee Highway Patrol cruiser.
The accident near the 41-mile marker blocked the interstate for hours, according to Bill Brown, director of the Greeneville-Greene County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
Brown said one southbound lane was reopened about 5:35 a.m. today and the second southbound lane was reopened about 7:25 a.m. Efforts to remove the damaged tractor trailer were still in progress at mid-morning.
A Tennessee Highway Patrol dispatcher said the collision took place in the southbound lanes in an area where a contractor was working for the Tennessee Department of Transportation installing reflectors.
The dispatcher said trooper Nathan Hall, who normally is assigned to Hawkins County, was in his patrol car that was escorting the truck and was injured when the tractor-trailer collided with the patrol car and the truck he was escorting.
Hall was treated and released from the Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, according to the THP.
After the collision, the tractor-trailer left the roadway and plunged into a wooded ravine, trapping the driver inside it, according to Baileyton Police Chief Dale Dodds, who responded to the accident as a member of the Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad.
Emergency personnel identified the driver as Gary Higgins (no age or address available).
A second occupant of the truck managed to escape the rig's sleeping compartment, according to Dodds.
Emergency workers identified the second occupant of the truck as Jonathan Taylor (no age or address available).
Higgins was listed in fair condition at Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport this morning. Taylor had been treated at the same hospital and released, according to a hospital spokesman.
Dodds said Rescue Squad volunteers, with assistance from firefighters with the United Volunteer Fire Department, worked for about an hour-and-a-half to free the trapped truck driver.
Complicating rescue efforts, Dodds said, was the fact that the heavily damaged truck's cab had come to rest over a concrete drainage ditch that he estimated to be 12-to-15 feet deep and more than 10 feet wide.
In addition, Dodds said, a small fire broke out beneath the truck several times while rescue efforts were in progress. But firefighters managed to extinguish the fires without injury to rescue workers or the trapped driver.
Rescue workers, Dodds noted, finally managed to remove the injured driver from the cab of his truck after freeing his trapped foot. The victim, he said, was removed through the truck's windshield after an overhead console and other equipment in the cab were removed.
Dodds said the driver was flown to Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center by the WellmontOne helicopter after being freed from the wreckage.
Greeneville-Greene County EMA Director Brown said some 200 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the tractor-trailer, which he said was owned by H&W Trucking of Mt. Airy, N.C.
The trucking company, he said, hired Four Seasons Ground Services, of Mosheim, to clean up the spilled diesel fuel and an adhesive substance that was being used by Traffic Specialists, of Ohio, to install reflectors along Interstate 81.
Michelle DeLotto, a spokesman for the Baileyton-based United Volunteer Department, said firefighters were dispatched at 11:14 p.m. Sunday to the accident scene.
She said that four trucks and 10 firefighters responded and that most remained on the scene until about 7 a.m. today.
The accident remains under investigation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.