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Rogersville police officer uses patrol car to prevent head-on crash

Jeff Bobo • Jan 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Rogersville Police Office George Henry was worried about telling his boss he’d damaged his patrol car Tuesday evening, but Chief Doug Nelson said he’ll take dented sheet metal over lost lives every time.

Witnesses told Nelson that Henry’s quick thinking Tuesday probably prevented serious injuries, if not loss of life, when a motorist heading westbound on Highway 11-W apparently suffered a medical emergency and drifted into oncoming traffic.

Henry caught up with the car, a Nissan, and “nudged” it out of oncoming traffic, although the vehicle did rear-end another car in the left-hand turn lane around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Rescuers said Johnny Strange, 57, of Kingsport, apparently suffered a diabetic episode, which probably began on 11-W east of Rogersville when witnesses reported him weaving in traffic.

Strange somehow managed to make it past the busy Park Boulevard intersection without a collision.

Having received a call of the Nissan driving erratically, Henry turned onto 11-W at the Hawkins Street intersection and got behind the Nissan as it wove into the opposite lane of traffic.

“George said the vehicle was weaving so bad it looked plumb ridiculous,” Nelson told the Times-News. “The driver was basically going from one side of the road to the other, and then got over into oncoming traffic. George turned his blue lights on and came up beside this vehicle and used the passenger side of his car to try to rub him back over into his lane.

“George said the man was just dazed and wasn’t really responding — just looking straight ahead and not paying attention to anything going on.”

Strange was traveling about 55 mph at that time. Nelson said witnesses told him Henry’s actions prevented several oncoming vehicles from potentially being hit head on by Strange.

“George didn’t even realize he’d done something good,” Nelson said. “He was worried about telling me he’d wrecked his car. A couple of witnesses told me George was awful brave and he doesn’t realize how many people he kept from hitting head on by moving that car back over.

“He put himself in danger to save a lot of other people.”

Strange rear-ended a 2000 Chevrolet Impala that was in the left-hand turn lane at the Hasson Street intersection. Although both vehicles suffered major damage from the collision, the driver of the Impala, Glenda Cavin, 37, of Rogersville, and her 13-year-old daughter were not badly injured. They were transported to Hawkins County Memorial Hospital by family members.

Strange was transported to Holston Valley Medical Center via Hawkins EMS for treatment of the diabetic problem, as well as injuries. Nelson said the injuries did not appear to be life threatening.

Strange is not expected to be cited.

“The paramedic told our detective they thought it was his blood sugar, and he was just sort of out of it,” Nelson said. “He probably won’t be cited. It’s just a medical condition that happens once in awhile. It’s just as much of a misfortune for him as anybody.”

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