Saturday, January 3, 2004
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A man driving his pickup the wrong way on a highway collided head-on with a car early Friday, killing himself and a family of five from Taylor in the other vehicle, authorities said.
The accident happened about 12:15 a.m. in the northbound lanes of Interstate 75, about 15 miles southwest of Knoxville.
Jerry Bruce Garrett Jr., 33, of Livingston, Tenn., was driving a 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup when he collided with a 1994 Chevrolet Caprice, said Beth Denton, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Denton identified the victims in the Caprice as Kostika Papmihali, 56, and his wife, Vera, 53, of Taylor, Mich., and their three daughters: Elda, 24; Renata, 21; and Vasiola, 16. The family was returning from a Florida vacation, and all died immediately or soon after the accident.
Garrett died during surgery.
It was still unclear how Garrett ended up in the wrong lanes, or whether he had been drinking, Denton said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations crime lab will determine if alcohol was a factor.
Highway Patrol Lt. Clinton Valentine said Garrett apparently entered the highway about a mile before the crash, passing wrong way and do not enter signs.
The accident closed the northbound lanes of I-75, a main artery from Florida to the Midwest, for several hours.
These signs are visible, Valentine said. And even if they get on the interstate, when youre meeting cars coming your way, a normal person would think Im going the wrong way and would take some kind of actions.
In this instance, it didnt happen, the officer said.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab will determine if alcohol was a factor. Results may take three to six weeks.
The accident closed down the northbound lanes of I-75, a main artery from Florida to the Midwest, for several hours.
Knoxville radio station WNOX noted that at least 11 people have died in wrong-way crashes in east Tennessee in the past six weeks, including two on New Years Day in Knoxville.