Robert Keys, 80, was seriously hurt when his vehicle hit another car between Exits 59 and 57 on Interstate 81 Wednesday. Police say Keys was driving south in the northbound lanes. Erica Yoon photo.
Robert Keys, 80, Colonial Heights, was in critical condition late Wednesday, after hitting a car nearly head-on on I-81. Police said Keys was driving the wrong way in the northbound landes of the highway when the wreck happened.
The man whose car Keys hit, Morgan Morris, 41, of Abingdon, Va., was injured, but his injuries were not life threatening, said KPD Officer John McGee.
The crash happened between the Colonial Heights exit and Interstate 26 about 6:30 p.m. when Keys got onto I-81 by way of the exit ramp from the interstate to Fort Henry Drive and traveled south in the northbound lanes.
A short way up the road, between Exits 57 and 59, Keys' car hit a Dodge Charger driven by Morris, police said.
McGee said Morris told police that he was following a panel van that swerved out of the lane, and he didn't have time to get out of Keys' way.
Rescuers called in Wings Air Ambulance to transport Keys. Morris was taken by Sullivan County EMS to Holston Valley Medical Center.
KPD Officer Dale Farmer said the crash does not appear to be alcohol or drug related, but investigators are not sure what caused Keys to get onto the interstate traveling the wrong way.
Traffic slowed to a crawl and was stopped completely when Wings landed, Farmer said.
"Once they got airborne, we opened up one lane of traffic on each side," he said.
McGee said Morris was wearing a seat belt, and it appeared that Keys was as well.
"For Morris, it definitely saved him from more injuries," McGee said.
The crash is still under investigation.