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TDOT, city to study improvements to deadly stretch of Fort Henry Drive

March 13th, 2014 11:51 pm by Matthew Lane

TDOT, city to study improvements  to deadly stretch of Fort Henry Drive

A cross stands as a memorial to a motorcyclist who was killed in a collision on Fort Henry Drive last week. David Grace photo.

KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport plans to work with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to see if any improvements can be made to a stretch of Fort Henry Drive where five people have been killed in car crashes in the past six months.

Four deadly accidents have taken place basically in front of the Walmart Supercenter on Fort Henry Drive since September, with the latest happening on Saturday when the driver of a 2011 Hyundai Sonata turned into the path of a 1998 Kawasaki motorcycle at the intersection at Atoka Lane.

The driver of the motorcycle — 23-year-old Samuel A. Ireson Jr., of Kingsport — was killed in the accident.

Kingsport police are continuing to investigate the incident, with possible contributing factors yet to be released.

Tim Elsea, Kingsport's traffic engineer, said he spoke with TDOT officials on Monday about performing a safety analysis on the stretch of Fort Henry Drive, essentially from the John B. Dennis Highway to Hammond Bridge.

Elsea said the request would be submitted to TDOT this week but he doesn't know when the safety analysis will begin.

TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi confirmed the department is working with the Model City to determine if this stretch of road would qualify for safety funding for improvements. Kingsport is currently reviewing the crashes to determine contributing factors, Nagi said.

Saturday's deadly wreck was the fourth fatal incident along that particular stretch of Fort Henry Drive in the last six months.

On Sept. 14, a 2002 Acura RSX coupe, driven Dena Marie Riddle, 43, of Kingsport, was traveling 104 mph when it crossed the center lane into oncoming traffic and struck a Ford Expedition head on. Both vehicles burst into flames and Riddle died at the scene of the crash.

Walter T. Bellamy, 58, died three days later as a result of injuries he sustained in the wreck. The two passengers in the Ford sustained serious injuries.

Pathology reports from lab testing later revealed Riddle was more than three times over the legal blood alcohol limit when the collision occurred.

One week later at the intersection of Thornton Drive, a Jeep Cherokee driven by Jeremy Rick Sturgill of Jonesville, Va., ran the red light and struck a Chevrolet Malibu, driven by Melissa Lambert of Kingsport. Two other vehicles were struck during the accident and Lambert died as a result of her injuries.

In that incident, Sturgill's failure to obey the traffic light was cited as the contributing factor.

Finally, in December, Elisa Kiser, 53, turned her 2007 Ford Focus into the path of a 2003 Ford F-150 at the intersection of Atoka. Kiser, who was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, died of her injuries sustained in the accident.

Kiser was in the southbound center turn lane of Fort Henry Drive when she attempted to make a left turn onto Atoka, police reported at the time.

Kingsport police say a subsequent investigation of the incident revealed Kiser's failure to yield to the other motorist, who had a green light and right of way through the intersection, spurred the fatal crash.

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