Also, a woman passenger in a pickup truck that overturned after being struck by the same northbound tractor-trailer that crushed the small Saturn sedan was injured. She was transported by ambulance to Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport.
Trooper Richard McElhaney, who filed the initial report on the crash, said on Sunday night that the four people killed were believed to be a young couple from Virginia and their two children.
This morning, Ray Crum, Greene County's medical investigator, identified the dead as a Waynesboro, Va., man, his current wife and his two young children from a previous marriage.
Crum listed the victims as Edward Dean Armstrong III, 32; Melissa Renee Armstrong, 26; Brittany Nicole Armstrong, 10; and Edward Dean Armstrong IV, 6.
Trooper McElhaney said the fatal wreck took place in the right northbound traffic lane of I-81 a short distance south of the exit 36 interchange at about 2:45 p.m.
Northbound traffic had halted shortly before the fatal collision as the result of an earlier accident that occurred between the 37 and 38 mile markers north of Baileyton.
A Greene County 911 spokesman said the fatal collision was reported at 2:49 p.m., while the earlier accident had been reported at 2:11 p.m.
When a Greeneville Sun reporter and photographer arrived at the scene of the fatal accident near exit 36, northbound traffic on I-81 was at a standstill both north and south of the crash scene.
Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad volunteers and Greene County-Greeneville EMS personnel struggled to reach the victims trapped inside the crushed remains of a small Saturn sedan that was smashed against and beneath the rear of a tractor-trailer.
A second tractor-trailer, which bore heavy damage to the front of its tractor unit, rested against the side of the tractor-trailer rig that had the Saturn sedan smashed against the rear of its trailer.
Trucker From Wisconsin
Trooper McElhaney said the accident apparently took place when a northbound World Trucking, Inc., Volvo tractor-trailer driven by Nasko Nazov, 44, of Greenfield, Wis., switched from the left northbound lane to the right northbound lane and twice struck the rear of a slowing or stopped Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck driven by William Harmon, 42, of Belfry, Ky.
The pickup truck, according to Trooper McElhaney was knocked onto its roof and came to rest on the right shoulder of the roadway. "That's the only thing that saved those people," McElhaney said of pickup driver Harmon and his wife, Karen.
William Harmon, the trooper said, apparently escaped injury, although Karen Harmon, 45, was injured. She was taken by ambulance to Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport.
After first striking the Harmons' pickup truck, the Volvo tractor-trailer driven by Nazov struck the rear of the small Saturn sedan, smashing it into, and partially beneath, the rear of a Peppers Transport, Inc. tractor-trailer that was stopped in the right northbound traffic lane, McElhaney said.
The Peppers Transport, Inc. tractor-trailer was driven by Russell Harp, of Coleman, Ala.
After striking the Saturn, Nazov's tractor-trailer careened down the left side of Harp's tractor-trailer before coming to a stop resting against Harp's truck, McElhaney said.
Neither Nazov nor Harp was injured in the collision.
Trooper McElhaney said a four-member THP Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) reconstructed the fatal accident on Sunday afternoon and evening.
Beverly Alvis, a Clinton, Tenn., resident who was driving to visit family members in
Fall Branch on Sunday afternoon, said she witnessed the collision in her rear-view mirror.
"We were driving north and the car ahead of me came upon stopped traffic and swerved into the median," she said. "I was able to stop, but I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the collision behind me."
Alvis said her daughter, Rebecca Graham, also of Clinton, kept saying, 'Where's the car?' after the pair lost sight of the small white sedan that they had passed shortly before the fatal crash took place.
Only later, Alvis said, did she learn that the small sedan had been smashed against the rear of a stopped tractor-trailer.
The bodies of the victims were not removed from the wreckage until about 5:45 p.m. Sunday after the accident reconstruction was completed.
Complicating the recovery efforts were high winds and rain, which struck the area about 5 p.m.
No charges had been placed in connection with the fatal collision as of this morning. Trooper McElhaney said charges might be filed later depending upon the results of blood tests taken of all the drivers involved.
Firefighters from the Baileyton-based United Volunteer Fire Department stood by with a charged fire hose as a precaution against the outbreak of fire as Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad volunteers and Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services personnel worked at the crash scene.
Michelle DeLotto, the United VFD's spokesman, said on Sunday night that 14 firefighters and three trucks responded to the scene of the fatal accident.
Rescue Squad member Marty Shelton said about 15 squad volunteers responded to the wreck, along with one crash truck and two support vehicles as well.
A medical first-response unit from the Fall Branch Volunteer Fire Department also
rushed to the scene. A Wings Air Rescue helicopter, which had been summoned to the scene because emergency personnel initially had thought one of the victims trapped in the crushed sedan might still be alive, landed in the northbound traffic lanes.
But the medical evacuation helicopter left after emergency personnel determined that all the four family members from Virginia were dead.
Many of the Rescue Squad personnel and United VFD units that responded to the fatal accident had been at the scene of the earlier traffic crash near the 38-mile marker of I-81 when the fatal wreck was reported, emergency personnel said.
Northbound traffic was stopped behind the fatal accident until sheriff's deputies and state troopers began directing traffic off I-81 onto the Baileyton exit ramp after traffic congestion north of Exit 36 from the earlier accident cleared.
Northbound traffic then was directed across Baileyton Road and onto the northbound I-81 entrance ramp until wreckage was finally cleared from the northbound traffic lanes about 7:15 p.m.
The earlier accident near I-81's 38-mile marker apparently occurred when a southbound automobile went out of control, crossed the median and was hit by a northbound tractor-trailer, which then plunged off the highway, according to Rob Bailey, a United Volunteer Fire Department firefighter, who was at the scene.
The earlier accident remained under investigation by Trooper Kevin Brobeck this morning.
Emergency personnel said one person was flown by a Wings Air Rescue helicopter from the scene of the earlier accident to the Johnson City Medical Center, while two others were taken by ambulance to Laughlin Memorial Hospital.