Three people were critically injured Saturday morning when a driver fell asleep behind the wheel and slammed head-on into another car.
The slumbering driver, Austin Hensley, 23, of Rickman and his passenger, Gillermo Correa, 48, of Sparta were airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga along with the driver of the other vehicle, Patricia Finney, 50, of Manchester.
The accident happened around 8 a.m. Saturday a few hundred yards past the South Mill Street intersection on Highway 55 (Manchester Highway) in Morrison. According to Trooper Wade Myers, Hensley was heading westbound, away from McMinnville, on Highway 55 in a Ford F-150. It was a company truck belonging to CHC out of Cookeville.
Evidence at the scene suggests Hensley fell asleep at the wheel and his truck crossed the yellow line. His passenger admitted he had seen Hensley nodding off earlier in the drive.
Finney, who was heading eastbound, toward McMinnville, in her Ford Edge, told the trooper she didn’t have time to react.
“She said she it was there before she could do anything,” Trooper Myers revealed, noting there was very little in the way of skid marks leading up to the scene meaning the vehicles likely collided at highway speeds. “She tried to swerve but it was too late. That explains where she was hit and why her vehicle was pointing the way it was.”
Attempts to have a helicopter land at the scene were thwarted as no one would fly due to the rain. All three victims were taken to River Park Hospital by the Warren County Emergency Ambulance Service and later transferred to Erlanger. Hensley was cited for violating the due care law. Trooper Myers noted that the fact everyone was wearing seatbelt likely saved lives given the massive damage to both vehicles.
“Injuries would have been much worse had they not all been properly restrained,” Myers noted.