Watauga accident claims life of young mother

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR Staff

   The young mother of two small children lost her life early Friday morning in a one-car accident on Piney Flats Road.
   According to Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Mark Musick, Leslie H. Cornett, 30, 128 Poplar Ridge, Piney Flats, received massive head trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene around 7:30 a.m. by coroner Jim Burrough, director of Carter County Emergency Management Agency.
   Cornett, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle. Musick said Cornett was traveling west on Piney Flats Road in a 1996 Saturn when the right side tires dropped off the side of the roadway.
   "She overcorrected, came back across both lanes of travel and went into approximately a 6-foot-deep ditch, and then the car overturned." The ditch was partially filled with water.
   Austin Cornett, 6, was riding in the right front passenger seat, unrestrained. He received a minor injury to the hand. Adam J. Cornett, 3, was riding in the back seat in a child restraint device, which was used improperly, Musick said.
   "As far as we can determine, the seat was not secured into the car, so it came loose. He went on a little ride himself inside the car, but it didn't hurt him. He got lucky," Musick said.
   Neither child was taken to the hospital.
   Residents living near the accident location heard the crash and rushed to the scene, where they removed the children from the vehicle and called 911, according to the trooper.
   It was a tragic way for law enforcement officials and emergency workers to start the day, "but it's nothing compared to what they're feeling. The kids lost their mom," Musick said.
   According to Burrough, had Cornett been wearing a seat belt, it might have made a difference in the outcome.