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Motocycle rider struck by pickup
Motorcycle crash
James Clark photo Emergency responders tend to motorcycle rider Bruce Wheatley, 71, after a crash at the intersection of Beersheba Highway and Shellsford Road on Saturday morning.

A 71-year-old motorcycle rider was airlifted Saturday morning after he reportedly pulled into the path of an oncoming pickup and was sent flying about 30 feet.

Birmingham, Ala., resident Bruce Wheatley was airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. He was part of a group of three motorcycle riders from Birmingham who are in the area for a weekend motorcycle rally in Dunlap.

The accident took place around 10:30 a.m. at the intersection of Beersheba Highway and Shellsford Road by Forest Nursery. According to eyewitness reports, the group of three motorcycles stopped at Shellsford Road, then proceeded to turn left onto Beersheba Highway heading toward Irving College.

The first two motorcycles made the turn successfully, but Wheatley’s motorcycle pulled into the path of a Chevrolet Z71 pickup driven by Clint Grissom, 19. The pickup was heading toward McMinnville.

The two vehicles collided in the middle of the intersection with Wheatley and his motorcycle getting knocked about 30 feet onto a nearby lawn. Motorists who saw the accident unfold rushed to Wheatley’s aid, found him unconscious on the grass, and feared he might be dead. When he regained consciousness he began asking what happened.

Eyewitnesses say Wheatley is lucky to be alive and credit the slow speed of the pickup as the reason why. The pickup was only estimated to be traveling 30 to 35 mph on the two-lane highway.

It is not known why Wheatley pulled into the path of the pickup. Onlookers speculate he may have been trying to keep up with his group, or that he may have believed the intersection was a four-way stop.

Grissom was not injured.

The Highway Patrol was on the scene investigating. The accident closed that section of Beersheba Highway for more than one hour.