Man charged in multiple vehicle accident

By Abby Morris

An Elizabethton man was charged in connection with the five-vehicle wreck that occurred early Friday morning and shut down portions of Elk Avenue for more than 14 hours.
   The accident took place in front of Sycamore Shoals Hospital and emergency officials shut down Elk Avenue between Parkway and Hudson Drive immediately after the incident occurred around 8:30 a.m. The road did not reopen until just minutes before 11 p.m.
   According to police, the driver of a Cadillac, Jeff Holtsclaw, 40, lost control of his vehicle and struck the SUV. "The driver of the Cadillac side-swiped another car and cause a chain reaction," said Elizabethton Police Department Chief Roger Deal.
   Police reported that the Cadillac was traveling East on Elk Avenue and struck a Toyota SUV, which was stopped to turn left into the parking lot of the daycare center located in front of Sycamore Shoals. After striking the SUV, the Cadillac lost a wheel and struck a Blossman Gas, Inc., truck, which spun around and struck a Ford Taurus which was then hit by the Cadillac. The Cadillac continued to spin and struck a Chevy Lumina.
   Holtsclaw was arrested and charged with second offense DUI, aggravated assault by reckless conduct with a motor vehicle, possession of Schedule VI drugs, two counts of possession of Schedule IV drugs and one count of possession of Schedule II drugs.
   There were four injuries in the accident, three of which were not serious. The fourth injured person was a 16-year-old female passenger in the Cadillac. According to Deal, she suffered a serious head injury and was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center where she was listed in critical condition in the Pediatric ICU Friday afternoon but was later moved out of ICU. No further information on her condition was available Saturday evening.
   Deal reported that officers found marijuana, Loratab, Xanax and methadone in the Cadillac. Deal also stated that Holtsclaw was known to law enforcement officers for drugs.
   After the cars were cleared away from the scene, emergency workers had to decide how to handle the overturned tanker truck, which held 2,500 gallons of propane.
   "We did not want to attempt to move the tanker because of the chance of the tank rupturing," said Elizabethton Fire Department Chief Mike Shouse. "We were extremely lucky that at the time of the wreck the tank didn't rupture.
   "The key to this operation was safety."
   Emergency officials decided to bring in another tanker truck and attempt to offload some of the propane from the overturned tanker.
   Approximately half of the propane was successfully offloaded, leaving about 1,300 gallons in the tanker. Officials decided to execute a controlled burn of the remaining propane. The burn began shortly after 3:30 p.m. and completed just before 7 p.m.
   After the propane was burned off using two flare systems, the process of removing the now empty tanker began.
   The cleanup finished just minutes before 11 p.m. and the road was reopened for traffic.
   "We hate to inconvenience the motorists, but it couldn't be avoided," Shouse said. "I know it inconvenienced a lot of people, but if this had been done haphazardly it could have resulted in the loss of life."