TDOT sends $3,000 bill for guardrail that killed Lenoir City teen

Grieving family pushing lawmakers for change in guardrail system

Hannah Eimers

LENOIR CITY (WATE) – A father says he wants action in the wake of his daughter’s death.

In November, Hannah Eimers, 17, was killed in a car wreck along Interstate 75 in McMinn County. Her car went off the road and hit a guardrail. The guardrail went through her car pushing her into the back seat.

Stephen Eimers says his daughter’s death still haunts him. Adding to the tragic situation, he received a bill from the state for the object that killed his daughter.

“They sent my daughter a bill for almost $3,000 for the device that killed her. I was just flabbergasted. I mean the audacity,” said Stephen Eimers. That letter has gone unanswered, but the family hopes their many questions to Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and lawmakers don’t go unanswered.

Previous story: Family, friends honor life of Lenoir City teen killed in wreck

Along interstates, TDOT uses a variety of guardrail end terminals.  Some experts say the guardrails that are supposed to save your life in a crash may actually kill you.

Previous story: Knox County has dozens of possibly fatal guardrail devices

Tennessee Department of Transportation stopped buying the ET-Plus System in October 2014 after the federal government said more crash testing was needed. They also stopped buying a second type of guard rail, X-Lite Terminal, on October 25, 2016 six days before Hannah Eimers died.

TDOT said they stopped buying X-Lite Terminal guardrail system because they had concerns about long-term performance issues.

“Leaving the roadway, regardless of why you leave the roadway, should not be a capital offense punishable by death,” said Stephen Eimers.

Currently, there are still 1,000 X-Lite and 21,094 E-T Plus terminals installed across Tennessee. TDOT said they only replace that kind of equipment if it is damaged, but Stephen Eimers is calling on the state to perform a risk-based assessment, similar to what other states are doing.

“My first desire would be to see both those devices come off the roads at the most dangerous points; the points where we’re likely to see a penetrating accident,” said Stephen Eimers.

Stephen Eimers

Stephen Eimers says he understands the project will take time and consideration by lawmakers, but he hopes his daughter would be proud of what he is working on. He also hopes to spare another family from the pain that haunts him.

The project will take time and consideration by lawmakers. “They will act, the question is when,” said Eimers.

TDOT says it was a mistake to send the Eimers family a bill for $3,000 and they apologize greatly for the error. Generally, when there is a fatal accident, TDOT says a bill is not supposed to be sent out. A spokesperson said a different letter will be sent to the family letting them know they do not owe the state $3,000.

WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to the companies of both guardrail terminals no longer purchased by TDOT, but have not received a response.

Initially, Tennessee Department of Transportation said there were 358 X-Lite end terminals across the state, but they later said there were approximately 1,000 of those type of guardrails across the state. This story has been corrected to reflect the updated total.

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