The Memorial Day weekend was marred by a traffic fatality as a 71-year-old motorcycle rider who pulled into the path of a pickup Saturday morning succumbed to his injuries later that day.
Bruce Wheatley of Birmingham, Ala., died at Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga after being airlifted there from Warren County.
Wheatley was in the area to participate in a BMW motorcycle rally in Dunlap. He was riding in a group of three motorcycles when the accident took place near Mt. Leo 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. Eyewitnesses said the pickup was traveling slowly, only about 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.
A member of Wheatley’s group said he was a longtime rider with probably close to 50 years of motorcycle experience. The friend added Wheatley was a noted professor who had published a book on monkeys.
Wheatley is the second person to die in a traffic accident in Warren County in 2018.
Last year over Memorial Day weekend, 17 people were killed in Tennessee, according to the Highway Patrol. Statistics for this Memorial Day should be available later this week, the Highway Patrol says.