A Deadly Stretch of Highway

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

Tallassee, Blount County (WVLT) - In a span of four days, three people have lost their lives on a section of the highway known as "The Dragon" in Blount County.

The accidents happened Thursday and Friday and all were riding motorcycles.

The first accident happened Thursday night.

THP says 40-year-old Kevin Hoyt was wearing a helmet when he lost control of his bike, slid down an embankment and died at the scene.

The second accident happened Friday night.

THP says Warren and Carol Woodruff of Florida were riding their motorcycle when they crossed the double yellow line and hit an SUV hauling a boat, both died.

With more than 300 turns in less than 11 miles, The Dragon is not easy piece of driving, especially on a motorcycle.

But as Stephen McLamb reports, for many, The Dragon's adventure outweighs the danger.

Gary and Beth Evans know the dangers of The Dragon, even the road leading to it.

It's on that stretch of road they lost their son on a motorcycle last year.

Beth recently picked up motorcycle riding after many years, but says she's now a more informed biker because of her son's death.

A memorial stands just below the start of The Dragon for Cole Evans, a 26-year-old who lost his life after an accident last August on a stretch of road just before The Dragon where he was headed.

"We took his ashes and scattered some of them up on The Dragon on Christmas Day because he loved it," says Beth Evans.

Unlike many out of town people who lose their lives on the windy Dragon, Cole Evans knew the area, it's where he grew up. But this heavily traveled area has become quite dangerous.

According to statistics from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, one person lost their life in 2003, six in 2004, five in 2005, and three last year. Just ask David Ramsey who operates the only motorcycle shop near The Dragon in Blount County.

"I've been in business now for four years here and I've pulled between four to five hundred motorcycles off The Dragon so far,” says Ramsey.

Motorcyclists agree The Dragon is a dangerous road, especially for those who use the thrill of speed to get through it which can result in injury or even death.

"It makes you think more. I think I mean that's something you don't want to see, you know, a fellow rider down because of something stupid,” says motorcyclist Robert Newland.

But the Highway Patrol is teaming up with Blount County and taking more aggressive action.

"We applied for grants for overtime to just concentrate on the area known as The Dragon,” says THP Lieutenant Jesse Brooks.

For Beth Evans, she's decided it's time to get back on a bike but only after becoming more informed. "Recently my husband and I bought motorcycles again. We hadn't ridden for a number of years and I went and took the motorcycle safety class."

With the number of crashes reported by the highway patrol last year, that number indicates a crash every other day of the year.

As far as Beth Evans is concerned, she says it will be some time practicing and riding in other areas before she thinks about hitting The Dragon.


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