MARYVILLE (WATE) – One man died and another was injured in a motorcycle crash on the stretch of U.S. 129 known as “The Dragon” in Blount County over the weekend, but the victims were not found until more than a day later.
Tennessee Highway Patrol says a 2016 Victory Cruiser operated by Phillip Paul Polito, 29, of Perryville, Missouri, was going southbound while a 2015 BMW motorcycle operated by Kevin Lee Diepenbrock, 41, of Greenville, Texas, was right behind.
Polito hit the brakes and Diepenbrock tried to brake, but hit Polito’s motorcycle in the back, causing both to go off the right side of the road and over the embankment.
Polito was killed and Diepenbrock was injured. The crash happened Saturday morning around 10 a.m., but they were not located until Sunday afternoon around 1 p.m. with a passerby noticed the crash.
At last check, on Tuesday morning, UT Medical Center says Diepenbrock is listed in serious condition.
The Blount County Fire Department says over the last year they’ve been dispatched to the Dragon more than 30 times, but 18 of those calls were just like this weekend’s, in that rescue and recovery missions required a rope.
It was a rush getting to mile marker three, far into the Dragon.
“I was very amazed anyone could hear him hollering for help. We were not able to contact each other, rescuers, from a 50 foot distance with the first patient,” said firefighter David Richards.
The rescue was not an easy one. Richards says in many cases a rider is 30 to 75 feet away from the road.
“This was a very long 105, down a very steep embankment, which was rocky which was another hazard for the rescuer workers on our trips up and down to make sure we didn’t loosen rocks that could hit the patient,” he said.
It took a number of trips down with medical supplies and equipment because firefighters say Diepenbrock was in bad shape.
“He was thankful that we found him but it was bittersweet because he knew, from the people who first found him, that his friend hadn’t made it,” added Richards.
During the rescue, crews learned the riders waited roughly 27 hours for help.
“That’s pretty bad. That’s pretty bad,” said motorcyclist Lino Puente of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Before Puente’s trip to Blount County, he’d already heard about what happened.
“It almost made me not want to ride today.”
To many, it’s not a surprise that a passerby stopped to help. “It’s a brotherhood with motorcycle riders. We always look out for each other,” said Puente.