ROGERSVILLE — It took about 42 minutes Thursday morning for Hawkins County rescuers to extricate the driver of a truck that had crashed into a church just east of Rogersville.
No one inside the building was injured, and the male driver sustained injuries that are not life-threatening. The man isn’t a member of the church, and authorities speculated that the crash might have been the result of a health emergency.
Witnesses at the scene said that the driver is a wounded war veteran who has experienced health issues.
Around 10 a.m., multiple agencies including the Hawkins County Rescue Squad responded to Grace Fellowship Church, where they found that a Dodge pickup had driven into the structure through a wall at the rear of the building.
Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Murrell said he received a report that the man had stopped on the side of the road, possibly due to a health issue, shortly before the accident.
When someone stopped to see if he was OK, the driver reportedly pulled back onto the roadway without speaking and crashed into the church a short time later.
The driver, whose name wasn’t released, was westbound on Highway 11-W approaching the Stanley Valley Road intersection when he apparently veered off the right side of the highway, through the front yard of the old Vapors store that burned down a few years ago and into the side of the church.
The roof of the truck had to be removed before rescuers could free the man, who sustained facial cuts and other injuries, but was alert and able to assist with his extrication.
Rescue Squad spokesman Corey Young told the Times News that the process took about 42 minutes.
“We had to stabilize the vehicle and also stabilize the structure to get the patient out,” Young said. “The patient is going to be transported to the hospital by Hawkins County EMS. He appears to be stable.”
Other agencies that responded included the Stanley Valley and Striggersville volunteer fire departments and Holston Electric, which cut off the power at the scene.