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80 Years Ago

Archives 04-12-2011


“Thrill Hill” crash claims lives of two teenagers
Pedestrian seriously injured when struck by pickup truck
County Commission mulls minutes, assistant archivist

“Thrill Hill” crash claims lives of two teenagers

Dewain E. Peek photo

Dewain E. Peek photo

Lyndon Johnson photo

By Lyndon Johnson,
OCN staff

Two Livingston teens were killed and three injured in a crash after making a run up “Thrill Hill” on Burgess Street Wednesday, April 6.

According to reports from Tennessee Highway Patrol, Alexander D Wright, 18, of Timberland Drive, Livingston, was driving east on Burgess Street at approximately 6:28 p.m. in a black 2011 Chevrolet Colorado crew cab pickup truck when he “lost control after traveling over a hill crest.” The report said the truck then failed to make the right turn at the intersection of Burgess and Bussell streets, striking a bollard and then a tree.

The crash killed Wright, and a passenger, Jessica D. Sells, 17, of Daniels Lane, Livingston, would later die at Vanderbilt hospital after succumbing to injuries sustained in the crash. Two other passengers– Maggie Taylor, 15, of Chimney Springs Road, Cookeville, and Madison L. Loftis, 17, of Sulphur Road, Livingston, were reportedly transported via helicopter to Vanderbilt for treatment of their injuries. A fifth occupant of the truck, Andrew J. Berta, 17, of County House Road, Livingston, was reportedly treated for minor injuries at Livingston Regional Hospital and released.

According to Trooper Andrew Goolsby, who investigated the crash, “They initially struck the stop sign coming up the hill with the passenger side mirror, then they hit a concrete pole. When they hit the tree, the truck kind of stood up on its nose. It did kind of come up on its nose and rotate 180 degrees, and of course it was facing the road.”

Goolsby said THP investigators were not able to ascertain what speed the truck was traveling because there were no discernible marks on the roadway. He noted, however, that investigators thought the truck was traveling “well above the posted speed limit.”

The brunt of the damage appeared to be on the driver’s side of the truck, where both Wright and Sells were seated, according to Goolsby. He said Loftis was in the rear seat on the passenger’s side and Taylor was in the rear seat middle position, while Berta was in the front passenger’s seat.

The bollard and tree hit by the truck were located in the front yard of Livingston Police Chief Greg Etheredge, who said he was not home at the time. When the initial 911 call came in, Etheredge said he went to the scene and radioed the 911 dispatcher to “Send everything you’ve got.”

Etheredge said, “The call came in, and I was still here at the police department. Sgt. Swift and I left the police department at the same time. I
had him go up Burgess Street, and I went Zachary and up Bussell. I looked to the top of the hill, and at first, I thought it was a truck at the top of the hill with its flashers on, but that was someone who had stopped to help with the wreck. When I pulled up, I realized it was in the yard.”

Etheredge, who said he had worked a lot of wrecks in his time with LPD and Overton County Sheriff’s Department, said at that point, his focus was on summoning help as quickly as possible.

“Other than the fact that I noticed that it was in my yard, that had nothing to do with anything else that we were doing. I ran up to the vehicle, and there were some civilians there trying to see what they could do to help, and I realized that there were several occupants. The vehicle was in pretty bad condition. I radioed in that we had three severe patients, and really, there were four, and I did not see one to start with because I was on the driver’s side,” he said.

Etheredge said Livingston Fire Department and Overton County Ambulance Service were on the scene in less than three minutes to begin
the process of extricating the crash victims and treating their injuries. He said two of the victims were loaded into the ambulance and ready to be taken to the hospital within 12 minutes, which he said was quicker than many wrecks he’s worked, especially those in the outlying areas of the county.

“Everybody just worked in unison, and it shows how we’ve all cooperated certainly in the last two years,” he said. “You’d look down when they were working on the patients, and there was police officers, firemen, and EMS personnel all trying to help people at the same time.”

In a twist of irony, Etheredge and other emergency services personnel along with a troupe of student actors had set up and videotaped a mock crash scene earlier the same afternoon on Haney Judd Road as part of an annual program put on by police and Livingston Academy officials that is meant to encourage students not to drink or use drugs and drive on prom night. Etheredge said unlike the fake crash scenario, there was no evidence that Wright or others in the crash on Burgess street were drinking or using drugs.

“The whole idea behind the prom crash video is to say drugs and alcohol can kill you, but that’s not what happened in this case,” Etheredge said.

“This was speed. And I don’t know the speed, but I do know speed was a factor. But to lose two of their classmates is horrible, and I have no doubt that will be fresh on their minds come prom.

“They were all good students,” he added. “The principal gave them high praises. They were going to church. I keep saying that. They were going to church. They weren’t, you know, most people who grew up around here went up Thrill Hill or went down Thrill Hill, including me, over the years.

And it’s just an accident. It’s a tragic accident. I wish it hadn’t ever happened.”

Both Etheredge and Goolsby said they were aware of some “brief discussions” that had taken place about the possibility of installing speed bumps, making Burgess and Bussell one-way streets to keep people from driving up “Thrill Hill,” or even closing part of the street.

“We’ve had some limited discussions,” Etheredge said. “Now is not necessarily the time to overreact or underreact. I think we need to look at it, talk about it, and you know, make some decisions down the road to try to maybe change it. But again, you go back to three generations in my lifetime who have traveled that road, so it’s hard to say. That’s why I keep going back and saying it’s just a horrible, horrible accident.”

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Pedestrian seriously injured when struck by pickup truck
By Lyndon Johnson,
OCN staff

A Livingston man suffered serious injuries when he was struck by a pickup truck while attempting to cross West Main Street on foot Wednesday, April 6.

According to a crash report from Livingston Police Department Officer Jerry Rhoton, Chadwick Davis Breeding, 32, of Livingston, was attempting to cross West Main Street to get to Dairy Queen when he walked into the path of a blue 1989 Ford F-150 driven by Cecil L. Thurman, 75, of Airport Road, Livingston.

Police Chief Greg Etheredge said, “The original call was that a man had fallen out of a truck in front of the Dairy Queen. When we arrived, the truck was still in the roadway. We got out, and there was a man laying there in the Dairy Queen parking lot, at the front part of the Dairy Queen. He appeared to have sustained some injuries. There was some blood, and he really wasn’t talking a whole lot.

“Where it [the truck] struck him was on the driver’s side around where the turn signal would be,” Etheredge continued.

Etheredge said Thurman had just left the area of Overton Farm Supply and was not believed to be traveling at an excessive rate of speed.

“But, you know, if you get hit by a car at 5, 10, 15 miles an hour, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to cause some problems,” Etheredge said.

According to reports from LPD officials, Breeding was transported to Livingston Regional Hospital for initial treatment of injuries including possible head trauma, a broken jaw, and a broken arm before being flown to Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga.

Neither Thurman nor Breeding faces any charges, according to the crash report.

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County Commission mulls minutes, assistant archivist
By Dewain E. Peek,
OCN staff

Overton County Legislative Body held the regular monthly meeting Monday, April 11, with Commissioners Jackson Carter, Frank Martin, Jean Moore, Darwin Clark, James Clouse, Jesse B. Bowman, Bruce Ledford, Glenn Honeycutt, Billie G. Phipps, Rick Moles, Ben Danner, Gregg Nivens, and Donna Savage all present, and Commissioners Billy J. Parrott and Randall Boswell absent.

As the meeting began, the usually ceremonial approval of the minutes became a subject of discussion.

Commissioner Nivens contended that some of the commissioners who voted against the nepotism policy in the March 14, 2011 meeting should not have voted because they are county employees.

“Their votes probably would be biased,” Nivens said, “and probably should not be counted.”

County Mayor Ron Cyrus asked County Attorney Daryl Colson to give his opinion on the matter.

“The nepotism policy applies to office holders; none of the county commissioners are office holders,” Colson said. “They just work in a county office. I think what CTAS (County Technical Assistance Service) would tell us is that, that conflict doesn’t apply.

“Now obviously, it would apply if there was a member of the County Court that was an office holder or worked for an office holder that was a relative.

That’s not the case, is my understanding.”

He later added, “The disqualification for voting, it’s not a bias, it’s a conflict. Whatever you vote on that you’re for, you’re biased, or you’re biased against. So, the objection can’t be that there’s a bias. The objection has to be that there’s a conflict.”

He went on to say they would have to be directly affected by the nepotism act in order for a conflict to exist.

The minutes, of which the accuracy was never disputed, were approved, with Commissioner Nivens voting no.

The state statute concerning conflict of interest for members of city or county governing bodies is 12-4-101, of which subsection (c) (1) states:

“Any member of a local governing body of a county or a municipality who is also an employee of such county or municipality and whose employment predates the member’s initial election or appointment to the governing body of the county or municipality may vote on matters in which the member has a conflict of interest if the member informs the governing body immediately prior to the vote as follows: ‘Because I am an employee of (name of governmental unit), I have a conflict of interest in the proposal about to be voted. However, I declare that my argument and my vote answer only to my conscience and to my obligation to my constituents and the citizens this body represents.’

“The vote of any such member having a conflict of interest who does not so inform the governing body of such conflict shall be void if challenged in a timely manner. As used in this subdivision (c)(1), ‘timely manner’ means during the same meeting at which the vote was cast and prior to the transaction of any further business by the body.”

And subsection (c)(2) states: “Any member of a local governing body of a county or a municipality who is also an employee of such county or municipality and whose employment began on or after the date on which the member was initially elected or appointed to serve on the governing body of the county or municipality shall not vote on matters in which the member has a conflict of interest.”

A resolution on the Updated Five-Year Strategic Economic Development Plan was adopted, with Commissioners Bowman, who questioned the
plan’s emphasis on downtown Livingston, and Nivens voting against it.

Mayor Cyrus said, “It’s part of the 3-Star program, it’s required for us to do this.”

Second reading of a resolution to ratify Chapter 979 Public Acts was approved. The act provides that a portion of the funds recovered from forfeited property be distributed to Overton County when the Sheriff’s Department is the investigating and seizing agency. The funds must be designated for law enforcement purposes, but cannot be used to supplement salaries of any public employee or law enforcement officer.

Commissioner Clark asked what fund the money would be placed in, and Mayor Cyrus said it would be placed in County General then distributed as the County Commission deems necessary.

Budget amendments were approved as follows: Solid Waste Amendment #1; Highway Department Amendment #4; County General Amendment #10, concerning $650,000 in federal funds for Emergency Watershed Protection projects; and County General Amendment #11.

Confirmation of Larry Gunnels as assistant county archivist was put on hold after the selection process was questioned.

Commissioner Danner asked Mayor Cyrus, “Is this a paying job?”

“This will eventually probably turn into a Title V job, yes,” Cyrus answered.

Then Commissioner Clark brought up a concern of County Historian Ronald Dishman, who asserted in a letter to the commissioners that Overton County Historical Society should have been consulted for a recommendation.

Mayor Cyrus said, “I checked with CTAS on this cause, and I have every legal right in the world to recommend this person as an assistant archivist.”

Commissioner Nivens asked, “Did you do interviews for it?”

“No,” Cyrus answered.

Dishman was recognized and allowed to speak to the County Commission.

“This was initially instituted in 1999 by the Historical Society requesting for Ossie Mitchell, as county executive, that you all appoint a records commission, which in turn, the records commission appoints a county archivist and an assistant,” Dishman said. “But then you all vote on it.

That’s the proper procedures.”

After further discussion, County Mayor Cyrus said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll withdraw this tonight. I’ll have a talk with you. I know the problem. I know what the situation is. I really do, Ronald. And this is not really the place to go into it, but I will be more than happy to meet with any of the commissioners and explain to you why I’m making the decision I’ve made on it.”

He said he would bring it back up next month, with the same recommendation.

Commissioner Nivens asked again, “You’ve interviewed people and this is your recommendation?”

“The people that I’ve talked to, this is the person that’s going to be my recommendation,” Mayor Cyrus said.

A 2-year lease was approved for Good Samaritan to occupy the basement of Joe L. Evins Community Center, at $1 per year. Good Samaritan will pay for water usage, gas for heating, and cooling, according to Mayor Cyrus.

“They will be pretty much self-sufficient in that operation,” Cyrus said.

The following were approved as notaries at-large: Tonya Emerton, Donna
J. Copeland, Jeanette Ferrell, Bill L. Winningham, and Beverly G. Knight.

Darrell Beason of Natural Resource Conservation Service gave an update
on Emergency Watershed projects in Overton County along Carr Creek.
He said the projects must be completed by May 31, but he wants to have them completed by May 15.

The meeting adjourned.

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