State Trooper Rodney Whiles didn't mince words when describing the Thursday accident on Smithville Highway just past General Equipment.
"If everybody wasn't wearing their seatbelts, we probably would have had a body bag," said Whiles. "Seatbelts save lives. There's no other way to say it."
Three people escaped serious injury, although one went to jail on outstanding warrants, according to Whiles.
The accident took place Thursday around noon on a straight stretch of Smithville Highway. Baxter resident Steven Gregory Calfee, 41, was driving a Ford Explorer and heading toward McMinnville when he crossed the oncoming lane of traffic and crashed in a guardrail.
From there, the SUV flipped once, went down a steep embankment, and came to rest on its side in a dry creek bed under a bridge.
"He told me something broke in the front end and caused him to go off the road," said Whiles. "I can't tell if that's what really happened because after that ride everything is broken. Usually if there's something wrong with the car there would be skid marks before the guardrail but I didn't see any skid marks. My guess is he got distracted and drove off the road."
Calfee was cited for failure to maintain his lane.
His backseat passenger, Mary Ann Anderson, 31, of Cookeville was arrested on outstanding warrants from Van Buren and Putnam counties.
Frontseat passenger William Lee Brown, 60, of Baxter was not seriously injured.