by Donna Carlson, staff writer
A Tennessee trucker died July 2 when his 2000 Volvo tractor-trailer went out of control on Interstate 40 in Cocke County. According to Trooper Mike Holt, witnesses said the truck was traveling in the left lane and suddenly took a hard left. “We don’t know why,” Holt said.
Steve Tidwell, 52, of Bon Aqua, TN, died while being transported by medical helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. Trooper Holt said Tidwell’s rig left the westbound lanes, crossed the grass median, went over both eastbound lanes, crashed through the guardrails and then plunged down a steep, 25-foot embankment. The crash occurred at 6:20 p.m., said police.
Troopers arrived at the accident scene shortly after it happened. Holt said the truck looked as though it burst into flames on impact. “The driver was not burned,” he said. “They got him out without being burned, but it looked like he was in bad shape.”
Two passing truckers stopped, scrambled down the brushy embankment and helped pull the victim, who had massive head injuries, from the cab of his burning truck.
Holt said Tidwell hadn’t hit any debris in the roadway. “Witnesses said the truck was in the left lane and suddenly took a hard left,” Holt said.
Members of the Newport Rescue Squad and Cocke County firemen combined their efforts to bring the injured trucker up the weed and briar covered embankment to a waiting medical helicopter. Captain Newell Byrd of the rescue squad told Land Line that his job was not to evaluate the scene for causation, but noted “there were ‘bad’ skid marks on the west and eastbound lanes as though the truck slid sideways.”
The truck was co-owned by Steve Tidwell and his brother, Tom Tidwell. Tom Tidwell told Land Line that he had inspected the truck and contents of the cab after the crash. He said he had seen his brother’s logbook and reported it was up to date. Tidwell also noted that the truck’s speedometer appeared to be frozen at 65 mph.
Trooper Holt said if Tidwell experienced a medical problem, the only way to confirm that as a contributing factor, would be to perform an autopsy. Tidwell’s son, Wayne, told Land Line that his father had no medical problems. “And he always stayed overnight in South Carolina when he made that particular run so he would be rested,” said Wayne Tidwell.
According to the Morristown Citizen Tribune, the interstate was crowded with July Fourth holiday travelers, but no other vehicles were struck as the rig careened across the eastbound lanes.