JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (WATE) – Members of volleyball and soccer teams from Maryland, in Tennessee for a year-end tournament, were involved Tuesday afternoon in a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 81 in Jefferson County.
Broadfording Christian Academy administrator Bill Wyand told WATE 6 On Your Side the soccer and volleyball teams were traveling in several caravans when the accident happened. The caravan that was hit had a group of seven people inside, 5 players and two coaches.
Tennessee Highway Patrol says a 2011 silver Kia Soul driven by Breeana Hartley, 20, was going north on I-81 around mile marker 81 when an unknown vehicle hit hers in the rear. This caused Hartley to veer to the left and cross the median, hitting one of Broadford Christian Academy’s vehicles going the opposite way.
Hartley’s vehicle came to a rest in the southbound lanes and the Broadfording vehicle came to rest in the median.
The third vehicle did not stop and fled the scene. The only description a witness could give was that it was a “dark-colored SUV.”
The driver of the school vehicle, Sarah Derr, 35, was taken to UT Medical Center as was Jonathan Ireland, 23, three 16-year-olds, one 17-year-old and one 14-year-old who were on board. Wyand says they are all in stable condition.
Hartley was also taken to the hospital. A 16-month-old was in the vehicle with her.
“It was just shocking and a numb feeling to get that call,” Ray Blackwell, the father of the injured driver, said.
His daughter, Breeanna Hartley, was traveling North on I-81 in her Kia Soul with her 16-month-old baby in the backseat.
That’s when a dark colored SUV following her closely rear-ended her, sending her over the median and head-on into the caravan.
She was transported by helicopter to UT Medical Center, where she received emergency surgery on two broken femurs.
“The orthopedic surgeon told us it will be 6 to 8 months before she can walk on her legs,” Blackwell said. “They repaired both of her legs with surgery overnight. She came out at around 3 this morning. She’ll be in the ICU another day or so. She had a lacerated kidney and liver. They’re watching that pretty closely, but things could have been a lot worse.”
Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Nathan Hall agrees that the crash could have been fatal, especially if the passengers in both the Kia and the caravan had not been wearing seat belts.
“They could have easily been killed or seriously injured… or ejected from the vehicle at that high of a speed on interstates,” Hall said.
Sgt. Hall said the biggest challenge for law enforcement is tracking down the driver of that dark colored SUV, who fled the scene after the accident.
“We do not have a license plate,” he said. “All we can do is put out a BOLO in other states as well for a dark colored SUV looking with front end damage. That’s all the information we have on that vehicle.”
And now, Ray Blackwell has a message for that driver, as his injured daughter begins the long road to recovery from her hospital room.
“Just come forward,” Blackwell said. “You made a mistake. You should have stopped. If you’re a man, be a man about this.”
The Tennessee Department of Transportation said the southbound lanes were closed for a time to allow medical helicopters to land. All lanes were back open by 6 p.m.
Broadfording Christian Academy is located in Hagerstown, Maryland. Wyand says the school decided the volleyball team will not be competing in the tournament.
“The players are either physically injured or emotionally injured,” said Wyand.
The soccer team will be competing.