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I-81 crash leaves 2 dead, 1 injured

Max Hrenda • Feb 23, 2014 at 4:38 PM

Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers said two people have died and one was injured as the result of a two-vehicle crash that closed down parts of Interstate 81 for almost 10 hours this weekend.

On Saturday night, Carl Russel Osburn, 54, Princeton, W. Va., and Dennis Darrell Dawson, 81, Beckley, W. Va., died after their two vehicles collided on the interstate near exit 74A outside of Bristol, Tenn.

Connie Sue Dawson, 75, who was riding with Dennis Dawson, was hurt in the crash, and was taken to Bristol Regional Medical Center for treatment. According to Wellmont Health System's Media Relations Coordinator Jim Wozniak, she remains at BRMC in critical condition.

Before THP arrived on the scene, Bristol Police Department and Bristol Fire and Rescue personnel responded to the call, which came through at approximately 6:30 p.m. Officer Mike Still, who arrived almost 10 minutes after the call came in, said that he could tell that it had been a serious accident.

“It was obviously a bad wreck,” Still said. “The cab of the truck was pretty well just opened up. The car was crushed against the wall.”

In the preliminary THP report, Trooper Julian Robinson said both the Dawsons - who were traveling in a 2012 Toyota Camry - and Osburn - who was driving a tractor-trailer - were traveling north on the interstate before the accident. When they neared the 74-mile mark, Robinson said, Osburn’s truck hit the rear part of the Dawsons’ car, causing both vehicles to veer across the road and crash into a concrete bridge pillar in the median.

The resulting collision pinned the Dawsons between the wreckage of the truck’s trailer and the concrete barrier, while Osburn was thrown from his truck and landed in the interstate’s southbound lane. After Osburn came to a stop, he was then struck by a 2005 Nissan Sentra, driven by Crystal Ward, 31, of Louisville, Tenn., as she was traveling south.

Despite the fact that Ward struck Osburn, THP Sgt. Bill Miller said evidence suggested the original crash killed him. Though Ward was not held accountable for Osburn’s death, she was arrested for driving on a suspended license.

After the accident, rescue crews began responding to the scene. While rescue personnel tended to the wounded, Still said he and his fellow officers tried to help in whatever way they could.

“Once we determined THP was going to work it, we were just staying out there for support ... to help with traffic, statements, or anything else they needed,” Still said. “I was pretty much just getting traffic redirected to get it to go around the scene.”

As the night went on and the scene came under control, Still said the police presence began to thin out.

“They were getting close to re-opening the roadway,” Still said. “Once we got to the point where there really wasn’t anything we were doing to help, we started clearing out.”

Though THP is still investigating the incident, Robinson said there was no indication that drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash, and all parties were wearing seat belts.

An official with the Tennessee Department of Transportation said the interstate was fully cleared and re-opened at around 4 a.m. Sunday.

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