Head-on wreck leaves two in critical condition

Two drivers were flown to University of Tennessee Medical Center and charges are pending after a three-vehicle wreck Monday morning on Highway 444.

Two drivers were flown to University of Tennessee Medical Center and charges are pending after a three-vehicle wreck Monday morning on Highway 444.

The head-on wreck was reported at about 10:12 a.m. Monday near U.S. Highway 321, according to Sgt. Matt Fagiana, Loudon County Sheriff's Office public information officer, and Lt. Stacey Heatherly, Tennessee Highway Patrol spokeswoman. The collision forced a road closure for part of Monday morning for a THP investigation.

Agencies that responded were LCSO, THP Loudon County Fire and Rescue, Tellico Village Volunteer Fire Department, Lenoir City Fire Department, Priority Ambulance and Greenback Volunteer Fire Department.

The two drivers flown via LifeStar medical helicopters to the hospital were Virgil Allen Russell, 59, and Lyle R. Smith, 60, both of Loudon. The two remained in critical condition Tuesday morning, Travis Estes, Priority Ambulance Emergency Medical Services director, said.

A passenger in Russell’s vehicle, Tyler Tackett, 26, Loudon, was treated and released. The driver of the third vehicle, Hein Thomas, 34, Maysville, Ky., was not hurt in the wreck.

According to a THP preliminary report, Russell was driving a 2007 Lincoln MKZ southbound on Highway 444 when he crossed the center line and collided head-on with a 2005 GMC SRA driven northbound by Smith. Russell’s vehicle went off the road and hit a tree, while Smith’s vehicle rotated southbound in the northbound lane.

A northbound 2017 Chevrolet Malibu driven by Thomas then struck Smith’s vehicle at an angle.

Russell was reportedly not wearing a seat belt and charges are pending. Tackett, Russell’s passenger, was wearing a seat belt, according to the report.

The other two drivers, Smith and Thomas, were wearing seat belts and there are no charges pending against them.