Van crashes into Tenn. beauty salon; 6 people airlifted to hospital, 4 others hurt

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

10 hurt when van crashes into Tenn. beauty salon

KINGSTON, Tenn. — A driver who appeared to be having a seizure plowed his van into a busy Tennessee beauty salon on Tuesday, injuring at least 10 people and trapping some behind debris, witnessess and hospital officials said.

Rescuers used pieces of lumber to shore up the badly damaged shop and spent at least an hour pulling victims from the rubble, witnesses said. Six people were airlifted to a trauma center, including at least one in critical condition.

Employee Tiffany Coy, 38, said she was trapped inside a back room with a customer after the van tore through the front of the packed Classic Styles salon about 30 miles west of Knoxville. Another eyewitness said it looked like the van was parked inside the salon after the crash.

“The whole place moved like there was an earthquake then smoke started pouring under the door,” Coy said as she tried to clean up among bottles of spilled hair products and bent hairstyling chairs.

Coy said Tuesday is the small salon’s busiest day of the week, and all four stylists had customers in their chairs at the time of the crash. She said she had to wait until rescue workers freed her and her customer from the debris blocking the door to the back room.

Eyewitness Kim Watson said in telephone interview that that the driver of the van struck another car before hitting the front of the salon, and that he appeared to be having a seizure when he was pulled from the van.

Police used pieces of lumber to bolster parts of the building as they were removing people, Watson said.

“It looked like it had parked inside the salon,” she said of the van. “One whole side of the salon was just demolished.”

Watson said after the accident, family members were running to the scene and medical helicopters landed in an empty lot nearby to pick up patients.

Watson, who works at the Cash Express nearby, said she saw cuts, gashes and “lots of blood” among the victims. One woman’s injuries appeared particularly severe to her after the crash around 1 p.m.

“You could tell she had a broken leg and her face was gashed up and arms gashed up,” she said. “She was hollering cause I am sure she was in lots of pain.”

University of Tennessee Medical Center spokesman Jim Ragonese said six patients were taken by helicopter to the Knoxville hospital. Four were in stable condition, and at least one was in critical. Four other people were treated for minor injuries and released from another hospital Tuesday.

Mindy Ward said her father-in-law, Richard Ward, was the driver of the van and was still in the hospital in Knoxville. She said the family was told that he had a seizure.

Vicky Wiley, a customer service representative at the neighboring Farm Bureau Insurance office, said she heard the accident then ran outside.

“We heard the first initial impact (with another car) and then the horrible crash into the building. It was very loud because it was right on top of us,” she said.

When she ran outside she saw the clipped car but didn’t see the minivan at first because it was completely inside the shop, where it trapped victims because there was no rear exit.

“An hour later they were still pulling people out,” she said.

Howie Rose, director of the Roane County Emergency Management Agency, told the The Knoxville News Sentinel that the van driver was the only man injured in the accident; all the other victims were female. He said four victims were pinned to the wall by the van. Neither Rose nor Kingston Police Chief Jim Washam returned calls from The Associated Press.

Associated Press writer Kristin M. Hall contributed to this story from Nashville.

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