Witness to Big Rig vs. Police SUV Crash Says Trucker is Being Unfairly Blamed and “Bashed”
Dandridge, TN – A Virginia woman is speaking out about what she says are false reports regarding an accident she witnessed Wednesday morning between a semi-truck and a police vehicle.
Maddie Hart was traveling through Tennessee in a Hyundai Tucson with her sister on their way to Virginia when the two women witnessed an accident near mile marker one on Interstate 81 in Dandridge.
Hart tells Transportation Nation Network (TNN) in an exclusive interview she was directly following a semi-truck (approx. 100 feet behind) in the right-hand lane of I-81 North around 10:30 a.m.
She described everything as “normal” — the highway was fairly empty and motorists were traveling safely and operating at or near the posted speed limit of 70 mph.
Hart said she thought nothing of it as several Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) vehicles appeared parked along the left side of the roadway near the grassy median.
None of the lights were engaged on the TDOT vehicles and no one was standing nearby, she claimed.
Then, out of nowhere, Hart recalls a police SUV, also without its lights engaged, “came out from behind where the (TDOT) worker trucks were,” and drove horizontally across the two lanes of roadway.
Hart then described the horrifying scene she and her sister witnessed next.
According to Hart, the SUV collided with the big rig up ahead, sending the police cruiser spinning, smoking, and pieces of the vehicle flying.
Upon collision, the Mack semi-truck rolled onto its side, causing the trailer’s contents to spill out onto the roadway.
The semi-truck and trailer came to rest on its right side spanning across the roadway, completely blocking the northbound lanes.
Hart was able to come to a safe stop and said she immediately saw multiple individuals jump from the TDOT trucks and rush to the semi and SUV to render aid.
Shaken by what she just witnessed, she continued on before police arrived to the scene, but called into a dispatcher to provide a statement.
She told TNN she gave her witness statement to two different police officials.
As the women left the scene and continued their journey to Virginia, they were curious to know more about what happened to the officer and truck driver.
Hopeful to learn they were okay, Hart said her sister began to look up news about the incident.
It was then the women came across a report by local outlet WBIR 10 News*.
(*EDITOR’S NOTE: Since this story was published, WBIR 10 News deleted its original report of the incident. The link is no longer active. WBIR replaced the story with a new version, found HERE. TNN has updated the link above to take you to screenshots of WBIR’s original report.)
The article cited the Jefferson Police Department (JPD) and a community Facebook page, “Jefferson County, TN Emergency Communications.”
Hart said she was surprised to read the account of the accident by WBIR and the Facebook group, as “none of the things they said were at all what I saw.”
The post by Jefferson County, TN Emergency Communications, in part, said the following:
The officer was stationed on the side of the road near the fast lane for traffic to slow down … A tractor trailer who failed to slow down and move over for unknown reasons made contact with the Tennessee Highway Patrol cruiser in the rear sending the cruiser flying forward and the tractor trailer down on its side, sliding several feet before stopping in the middle of the i-81 [sic] Northbound direction, blocking both lanes … it’s still unclear what the cause to the crash as [sic] to why the driver didn’t move over for the Trooper.
Dozens of online commenters were quick to suggest the driver was driving distracted or at an accelerated speed and should have his CDL stripped as a result of the accident.
Seeing that the truck driver was being “bashed” on Facebook for what she said did not happen, Hart was compelled to tell her side of the story on the post.
“None of the things they said were at all what I saw, so I just wanted to comment on what I saw,” she told TNN.
THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED!!!! … The officer pulled out from the median and drove horizontally across the road straight into the cab of the semi. Trooper DID NOT have his lights on. He WAS NOT aiding in slowing traffic … He 1000% caused that accident. WHY IS THIS BEING REPORTED ALL WRONG!!!!! The semi driver is not at fault for this AT ALL!!!
Hart’s comments have since been deleted from the Facebook post.
Further, she said she has been banned from commenting on the page.
TNN reached out to both JPD and the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) for comment and to obtain a police report.
An official with JPD declined comment, stating the incident happened out of its jurisdiction, despite the report by WBIR citing the Department.
In its coverage, WBIR said JPD identified the officer involved in the incident as THP Trooper Ashlee Hill.
Trooper Hill was hospitalized following the crash, the outlet reported.
The extent of her injuries are unknown.
Additionally, there have been no reports of the extent of the truck driver’s injuries and if he/she was also taken to an area hospital.
Hart said she felt it was important to tell her side of the story to “look out for the semi-driver and their safety and job safety.”
“I’m really upset by the accident and reading the post reported inaccurately,” she stated. “I’m upset for the semi driver and his family for being bashed for what I believe to be a completely untrue story.”
If and when we hear from THP, we will provide an update to the situation.
**Story updated at 6:40 p.m. CST to reflect WBIR’s deletion of its original story