Four injured when vehicle hits ambulance

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com

   Four people were injured Saturday afternoon on Highway 67/321 near Lakeshore Marina when a 1989 Chevrolet struck a Carter County Rescue Squad ambulance nearly head-on.
   According to unconfirmed reports, ambulance driver Chris VanHuss and attendant Bob Morton had responded to a call at Watauga Lake to pick up a patient who had become injured while on an island across from Watauga Point.
   Squad members were running non-emergency traffic, transporting the patient to Sycamore Shoals Hospital, when the ambulance, traveling west, was struck nearly head-on by the Chevrolet, driven by Sharon Patrice Moody Oliver, 42, 165 Old Stoney Creek Road, Elizabethton.
   According to witnesses, the Oliver vehicle was traveling east on Highway 67, apparently on the wrong side of the road in a curve when it hit the ambulance. Oliver had to be extricated from the vehicle and was transported along with Morton to Johnson City Medical Center by Wings Air Rescue. According to the Medical Center's house supervisor, both patients were admitted to the hospital after receiving treatment in the emergency room and were listed as being in fair condition Saturday night. According to an officer with the Carter County Sheriff's Department, Morton suffered severe lacerations to his head and facial area in the accident.
   VanHuss was treated and released at Sycamore Shoals Hospital. The name and condition of the patient who was in the back of the ambulance at the time of the accident was unavailable at press time.
   Traffic was backed up around Watauga Lake for well over an hour as emergency responders worked to clear the scene.
   According to Deputy EMS Director David Nichols, the front end of the 2002 E350 ambulance was seriously damaged. The squad had made only one payment on the vehicle, which was being purchased under a lease-to-purchase arrangement. The ambulance had only 6,000 miles on it.
   The accident is under investigation by Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Mark Musick, who was unavailable for comment at press time. tsclaw -- the operator of the stalled vehicle -- as a defendant. He was not named as a party in the settlement.
   Markland's suit seeks $150,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.