Three hospitalized after Highway 321 crash

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   A North Carolina man was in critical condition this morning following a two-vehicle crash Tuesday evening on U.S. Highway 321 near the Johnson County line.
   According to Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Doug Brewer, the accident occurred around 8:15 p.m. near Old Church Loop Road. Both lanes of traffic were blocked for several hours while emergency personnel worked to extricate the driver of a 2002 Pontiac Grand AM.
   According to Trooper Brewer, Benjamin L. Williams, 22, of Boone, N.C., was traveling south in the Pontiac when he drove left of center into the northbound lane and struck a 1996 Dodge Ram Dualley driven by Jeffrey Aaron Hodges, 22, of Vilas, N.C. Williams was airlifted to Holston Valley Hospital & Medical Center in Kingsport by Wings Air Rescue after Johnson City Medical Center was reported to be in trauma diversion status.
   "Speed and alcohol were definitely factors," Brewer said. Charges are pending.
   Trooper Brewer said that both of Williams' arms and both legs were broken. He also sustained a pelvis injury and a concussion. "He was in critical but stable condition and undergoing surgery," Brewer said around 4 a.m.
   A passenger in Williams' vehicle, Jessica Vernon, 20, of Boone, N.C., also was transported to Holston Valley for treatment of leg injuries and a laceration to the head, the trooper said.
   A passenger in Hodges' vehicle, Larry Trivette of Trivette Heights, N.C., was transported to a hospital in Boone, N.C., for treatment of a laceration to the head and possible damage to one of his eyes, Brewer said.
   Hodges received only minor injuries and was not hospitalized.
   The driver and passenger in the Pontiac were wearing seat belts and airbags were deployed. The driver's side airbag in the Dualley was deployed, Brewer said, "but I don't believe either had their seat belts on."
   It took Johnson County EMS, Big Dry Run and Elk Mills Volunteer Fire Departments more than an hour to extricate Williams from the Pontiac. "They all worked great together. They deserve a pat on the back," Brewer said.
   Trooper Brad Proffitt, a former jailer with Carter County Sheriff's Department who recently completed intensive training with the Highway Patrol to become a road officer, is conducting the crash investigation, Brewer said.