Two truck drivers in a tractor-trailer rig loaded with paper products died Sunday morning when their truck suddenly veered into the median, crossed the on-coming lane of traffic and traveled down a steep embankment.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol identified the two as the driver, Mutasim Abdelrahman, 31, Garden City, KS, and his passenger, Robert William Newton, 39, Branson, MO.
The crash occurred just before 8 a.m. on I-40 near the 335 mile marker between Crab Orchard and Westel. The 2019 Kenworth truck exited the last of a series of curves in the right east lane when, for unknown reasons, traveled straight across the left lane and into the median.
The truck traveled through a wire barrier separating the lanes and began to overturn, according to Trooper William Morgan’s report. The truck crossed both west lanes, crashed through a guardrail and traveled down a steep embankment, striking several trees and coming to rest on its right side.
Damage to the truck’s cab, which was ripped from the carriage, was massive. The truck’s engine was thrown into the wooded area and, according to witnesses who reported the crash, what was left of the cab was flattened.
This sparked a major extrication effort by the Cumberland County Fire Department. Personnel had to use a chainsaw to cut trees out of the way to make room to work.
The crash also caused a major snarl in traffic and about a 40 minutes after the crash, an SUV traveling too fast in the crash zone veered from one lane to the other and overturned in front of one of the firetrucks. The firetruck was posted some distance from the scene to slow traffic and was not struck.
A Cumberland County Emergency Medical Services ambulance whose personnel were waiting on extrication rushed to the second crash and transported that driver to Cumberland Medical Center’s emergency room for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.
It wasn’t until rescue personnel were well into the extrication effort that it was discovered there were two persons inside the wreckage.
Recovery of the cargo and truck wreckage took around 12 hours Sunday, causing traffic delays up to an hour as traffic was rerouted onto Hwy. 70 around the crash site.