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Police continue gathering evidence in fatal Kingsport wreck; two remain critical

Rain Smith • Jul 16, 2010 at 12:16 PM

As of Friday afternoon Kingsport police continued to gather evidence on a fatal Thursday night traffic crash that killed one man and left two women in critical condition. Drugs, alcohol or speed are not beleived to be factors in the wreck.

According to Kingsport Police Officer Dale Farmer, search warrants were being executed on the vehicles and technical inspections were scheduled, attempting to determine if a mechanical malfunction contributed to the accident.

It occurred at about 9 p.m. Thursday on southbound I-81, at the intersection of I-26. A 2000 Dodge Durango driven by Christopher C. Churchill, 31, of Bulls Gap, was southbound in the inside lane of I-81. Meanwhile, a 2004 Ford Econoline driven by Sandra P. Funes, 29, of Asheville, N.C., entered the outside lane of southbound I-81 from I-26.

Police say the vehicles collided, with each rotating and exiting the interstate. Churchill's Dodge stopped on a grass shoulder, while Funes' Ford -- which contained eight passengers from Asheville -- overturned and came to rest on its side.

The front passenger, Jose R. Vega, 26, received fatal injuries after being ejected through the right front door. Two other passengers, Portifilio Perez and Susana Sanchez, both 45, were transported to Holston Valley Medical Center with critical injuries.

Police say an 8-year-old girl in the vehicle received serious injuries, while a 2-year-old sustained none. Sylvian R. Ruiz, 38, received serious injuries, while two other adults had injuries categorized as non-life threatening.

Farmer said police know where the vehicles collided, but it is still unclear who crossed their lane of travel, potentially causing the accident. The police department's traffic unit was back on the scene Friday taking photographs, and has been in contact with the District Attorney's office regarding the incident.

Farmer said that all evidence would be presented to a grand jury, as is protocol for fatal wrecks involving more than one vehicle.

"It's a very unfortunate situation," Farmer said. "The drivers have been very knowledgeable and very, very cooperative on everything. I believe the drivers have been 100 percent honest with us."

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