KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Authorities have released the names of the people involved the deadly late night crash that killed one person, sent three more to the hospital, and backed up traffic for much of the day on Friday.
Shannon Mayne was killed after he was thrown from the Chrysler Sebring he was driving collided with an oncoming semi. The two people in the car with him, Casey Stinnett and Carl Stinnett, III, were injured as well as the driver of the semi, Peter Simets. All three were taken to UT Medical Center.
The preliminary investigation indicates Mayne and the Stinnetts were heading east around 11:30 p.m. Thursday night when it went off the road and crossed into the westbound lanes where it was struck by a semi, police said. The impact knocked the tractor-trailer onto its side where it burst into fire.
Flames shot forty feet into the air. Mayne was ejected and pronounced dead on the scene. The Stinnetts, who are cousins, were trapped in the car for hours and were not freed until after 4:00 a.m. They were both rushed to UT Medical Center with one of them having sustained what authorities described as life-threatening injuries.
Police believe alcohol and speed may have contributed to the wreck. They noted that while the Stinnetts were wearing seat belts, Mayne was not.
Drivers were stuck as the interstate closed, and crews moved in to clean up the debris.
It took more than seven hours to reopen the highway after a fiery wreck shut down I-40 westbound near Strawberry Plains. Two lanes have now reopened and officials say they hope to have the highway completely cleared by 5:00 p.m.
"When you see something like that that's the first thing that goes through your mind, Lord that could have been me. Help whoever was up there," said one woman caught the traffic. "It was horrible looking. It looked like we were going right into a tornado."
"You have a vehicle that left the eastbound side, traveled through the median and impacted with the semi truck in the westbound lanes. That type of crash is going to create debris all over the Interstate," 25 It's going to essentially shut the Interstate down almost immediately," said DeBusk.
"It appears alcohol and speed were a factor in this crash on behalf of the Sebring occupants," he said.
A couple hours later, across town, another driver died.
"Both drivers were ejected from their vehicle. Neither driver was wearing a seat belt." "The seat belt is one of the best things you can do to try to avoid serious injury or being killed in a crash. If you're ejected, your chances of being killed will rise dramatically," said DeBusk.
But the effects of both wrecks were felt for hours.
"You start shutting down a lane and you start instantly creating a backup. When you shut down all three lanes of a major interstate, even at 11:30 at night, it will backup very fast and create a lot of driving hazards for the people caught in the traffic jam," said DeBusk.