1 dead, 3 injured in one-vehicle accident

Published 4:12 am Monday, July 15, 2019

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Local enforcement agencies were on high-alert last week as torrential rains brought serious flooding to the county. Power outages, mudslides, a sinkhole and an electrical fire were all addressed within a span of one afternoon.

Personnel were given little time to recover from that long Thursday when called to assist with a one-vehicle accident over the weekend that resulted in a fatality.

Just after midnight on July 13, Claiborne Emergency Medical Service and the Tennessee Highway Patrol worked a serious wreck at the intersection of Forge Ridge and Patterson Roads in Harrogate.

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A 2005 Chevrolet pickup truck had been traveling eastbound at a high rate of speed along Forge Ridge Road when the driver lost control, veering left and leaving the pavement before hitting an embankment. The vehicle then became airborne and rolled several times through the intersection before landing upside down, coming to rest on the left side of the road.

The driver, Charles M. Gibbons, 22, of Miracle Kentucky was pronounced dead at the scene. The three passengers, Christian Helton, 18, and two juveniles from Middlesboro, were later airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.

The four occupants were reportedly trapped inside the truck for some time. They were eventually extricated from the vehicle.

It was determined by the THP that alcohol was a factor leading to the wreck. None of the occupants were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.

July 11 proved to be quite the rainy Thursday that will not soon be forgotten. Flooding caused havoc with inches of rainwater runoff creating multiple concerns. Many travelers were unable to get to work or other destinations due to the rushing of floodwaters across county roadways.

The downpours created a mudslide on Highway 33 south near the Snodgrass Road intersection, forcing vehicles into a one-lane situation to avoid running over the stretch of highway where the embankment was eroded away. Meanwhile, a stretch of roadway was closed near the old store in the Midway community due to a sinkhole created by flood waters that literally beat the pavement into two sections.

The parking lot in front of the New Tazewell Walmart store was ablaze with flashing lights from fire engines, rescue trucks and police cruisers as a ceiling fire was beat down.

The heavy rains led to a leak in the roof that apparently got too close to electrical wires. The call, that came in around 1 p.m., brought mutual aid from other fire departments.

The smoldering blaze was determined to have originated from rainwater leaking through the roof and onto the light fixtures. Electricity was cut off, as crews worked to snuff out the fire.

Minimal damage occurred to the building and fire personnel had the store up and running in short order.

The station was kept busy that long Thursday putting out other blazes, including a truck fire.

Meanwhile, Powell Valley Electric linemen were dealing with several outages due to downed poles and electrical wires affected by lightning and saturated land. According to Randell Meyers, general manager and CEO, the outages were system-wide but not what could be described as major.

The linemen worked feverishly to restore electricity within just a few hours. In particular, it took approximately four hours to restore power to all the homes inside the Sandlick community – about an average length of time, countywide.