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6 - Deadly crash leads to warning
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Pictured is the warning sign and light located on Spring Street before the intersection at Donnell Street facing vehicles heading toward downtown McMinnville. - photo by Taylor Moore

A fatal accident prompted the city to take action at a dangerous intersection downtown.

Motorcycle driver Bryan Jennings, 21, and his passenger Katelyn Rogers, 20, lost their lives Tuesday, March 29, near downtown McMinnville when their motorcycle collided with an SUV in front of First Baptist Church.

SUV driver Alissa Rains, 45, was able to open the passenger side door of her Toyota 4-Runner and escape without injury. Her driver’s side was engulfed in flames.

The crash was reported at 6:09 p.m. at the intersection of Spring Street and Donnell Street in front of the church. The motorcycle was travelling toward downtown on Spring Street and made contact with the front, driver’s side of the SUV, which was turning left from Donnell.

The impact ejected both victims over the SUV. The motorcycle ended up pinned under the SUV near the front wheel on the driver’s side.

An eyewitness told the Standard on March 30 it appeared the motorcycle was going fast. 

The intersection can be tricky because it’s difficult to see motorists coming over the hill if you’re pulling from Donnell Street.

In April, the mother of one of the victims pled to McMinnville officials requesting improvements for the intersection. “I am Penelope Rogers. We are the family of the deceased. We can’t bring our children back, but something needs to be put there. We don’t want anyone else to feel what we are feeling. There needs to be a three-way stop, a light, or something there. I sat there for an hour watching people come out of there and up the hill. Something needs to be done before we lose someone else. I don’t want anyone else to feel the pain we are feeling.”

In response to the plea, a warning sign with a flashing light was placed on Spring Street in June, and McMinnville officials approved three cautionary flashing lights for Spring Street in September, bringing the total to four.

That decision came following a study by the Tennessee Transportation Assistance Program, an examination requested by city officials after the deadly accident at the intersection of Spring and Donnell streets. An examination of the Spring and Caldwell intersection was also provided, at the city’s request. 

McMinnville Public Works Department director Frank Southard suggested before members of a joint Safety and Streets & Sanitation Committee meeting that the city purchase three warning beacon lights with warning signs and four advisory speed limits signs of 20 miles per hour. Approximate cost given was $6,000.

Those would be placed per TTAP suggestion: two on N. Spring Street on either side of Caldwell Street for both inbound and outbound traffic, and one just before Walling Street for traffic heading in the direction of Donnell Street. 

Also recommended was moving the existing beacon light – backing it up by approximately 100 feet – so that it can be a precautionary measure for Villa Street, as well as Donnell. 

The two 20 mph advisory speed limit signs would be placed on N. Spring and used in an effort to slow motorists as they approach Caldwell, while the remaining 20 mph advisory speed limit signs would be used to slow motorists as they approach the three intersections of Villa, Donnell and Walling. 

Advisory speed limit signs are yellow. While black and white signs indicate the official speed limit of an area, yellow speed limit signs serve a more cautionary purpose. Advisory would be 20. The official speed limit is 30. 

The city Safety and Streets &Sanitation Committee discussed different options for improvement, but altogether, TTAP recommended increased traffic enforcement, warning signs, speed feedback devices, warning beacons, removal of sight distance impediments, turn restrictions, traffic calming measures and all-way stop control. 

Safety and Streets & Sanitation Committee members unanimously approved purchase of three beacon lights with warning sign and four 20 mph advisory signs at a cost of approximately $6,000. The purchase is under $10,000, so Board of Mayor and Aldermen approval is not required.