Photo by Ned Jilton.
The use of a seatbelt is being credited with saving a Gray resident's life Thursday morning outside Kingsport, where her vehicle exited the roadway and traveled down a 50-foot embankment — ricocheting off large rocks and shrubs before striking a tree.
The crash occurred just before 10 a.m. in the 5100 block of Highway 36. Tennessee Highway patrol Trooper Nathan W. Hall says Opal King, 62, was northbound when her 2008 Nissan Versa exited off the right side of the road.
With no guardrail present at that section of the highway, King's vehicle traveled down a steep, overgrown embankment, hitting numerous shrubs and small boulders. It was not until the Nissan struck a tree, approximately 50 feet below where it exited the road, that it came to a stop.
The terrain presented obstacles for rescue workers responding to the crash, with Trooper Hall saying King was trapped in her vehicle for approximately 30 minutes. The roof was cut off the Nissan to extricate King, who was then placed on a backboard and hauled back up the embankment to Highway 36.
Trooper Hall said King, who was conscious and speaking with EMS personnel, appears to have suffered only minor injuries in the crash. She was transported from the scene by ambulance to Holston Valley Medical Center.
"She's extremely lucky not to be hurt more than that," said Hall, crediting the use of a seatbelt with saving her life. Speed nor road conditions are considered to be a factor in the crash, with an investigation into the incident continuing.
Highway 36 was closed for several hours to clear the scene, between Merman Road and Canton Road, while through traffic was detoured onto Beechwood Road.