BY KEN LITTLE
A fussy baby may have saved the life of Charles Webber Jr.
Nikki Smale happened to be behind a car driven by the Strawberry Plains man about 11:15 p.m. Tuesday when he ran off U.S. 11E in western Greene County and wrecked.
Webber, 40, was northbound on 11E in Midway when his 1995 Ford Mustang veered off the right side of the roadway, "went airborne" for more than 90 feet over South Spring Street, hit the ground and overturned, Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Billy Cutshall said in a report.
"He kind of swerved at the Midway intersection, and there's kind of a small drop there, and (the car) flew up and went off the road," said Smale, who had her 14-year-old daughter Haylee and her 1-year-old daughter Paisley in the car.
Smale, of Houston Valley Road, had just dropped her stepson off at the bus station at the nearby Quick Stop Market. Instead of leaving right away, Smale stayed about 20 minutes to quiet the crying baby.
The delay put her behind the car driven by Webber.
"I saw him swerve. He may have been reaching for his phone," she said Wednesday. "They had to cut him out of the car."
Webber had to be freed by the Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad. The Town of Mosheim Volunteer Fire Department assisted at the scene.
Webber was flown by Wings Air Rescue to Johnson City Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition Wednesday afternoon.
Smale immediately called 911 after the wreck. Then she and her daughter used their cell phone flashlights to find the wrecked car. Webber was trapped in the car, but conscious.
Smale comforted the injured man until first responders arrived.
Webber told Smale he was on his way to see his girlfriend.
"He kept saying he was going to die and he was scared," she said.
"He was asking me to help him and get him out. I was just trying to keep him calm."
Smale said she was driving at about 55 mph, the same speed as Webber.
"He wasn't speeding," she said. "The whole situation has me shaken up. If I hadn't have seen it, no one would have seen it."
The crash remains under investigation.