Any type of automobile accident can be devastating, but a head-on collision is more likely to result in death than any other type of motor vehicle accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, head-on collisions resulted in about ten percent of the fatal crashes in this country even though they made up only two percent of the collisions that occurred. A head-on collision usually happens when one automobile crosses the median or center line and collides with an oncoming vehicle. Tragically for two Tennesseans, when the driver of an SUV crossed the center line and crashed head-on into their van, they paid for his mistake with their lives.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol spokeswoman, Dayla Qualls, said that on Sunday morning, an SUV crossed the center line of a rural road in Sevier County, and crashed head-on with a church van killing two people and injuring ten others. According to Qualls, Tyler Schaeffer, 21 years-old, was driving the SUV that collided with the church van. He was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical center where he was listed in critical condition.
The driver of the van, Jeff Trussell, 45, of Maryville, and passenger Courtney Kaliszewski were both killed in the collision. Ten passengers, according to Qualls, were treated for injuries, but she did not have the status of their condition. The crash is still under investigation.
One witness of the collision, James Settles, 18, told the Knoxville News Sentinel, that rescuers tried to free Trussell and Kaliszewski, but that “flames were coming up too far,” and from what we could tell, “they were already dead.”
The passengers in the van were mainly middle school and high school students and are members of the Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Blount County, and were on their way back from a retreat in Gatlinburg. Cedar Grove Baptist Church youth group leader, Wes Gibson, stated that friends and family members were gathering at the hospital to pray for the victims, and that “right now, it’s still shock, but we’ve got plenty of church and community support.”