One person was killed and several others injured in a pileup involving four separate crash scenes and more than 100 vehicles Thursday morning on Vietnam Veterans Boulevard in Hendersonville.
The first crash was reported shortly after 7 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of Vietnam Vets at the exit to Saundersville Road, exit 8. The interchange is located about 20 miles northeast of Nashville in Sumner County.
Three subsequent wrecks followed, including one involving a school bus with students onboard and one that claimed the life of a 28-year-old newly wed from Hendersonville.
Paul Warren graduated from Hendersonville High School in 2002 and got married less than two months ago in October. A tribute blog has been set up in his memory.
Hendersonville's city manager told Nashville's News 2 45 vehicles were directly involved in the pileup, meaning they sustained some damage, although a total of 174 vehicles were in some way impacted.
Police said nine patients, including Warren, were taken to Hendersonville Medical Center. Eight others were transported to Sumner Regional Medical Center in nearby Gallatin.
Hendersonville police Sgt. Jim Vaughn said no one on the school bus was seriously injured. The students were offloaded onto another bus and taken from the scene.
Heavy, dense fog in the area is likely to blame for the pileup although icing conditions could have also contributed.
"Fog is basically moisture in the air so when you have temperatures in the 20's like we did this morning that fog can turn into ice crystals and if it settles on to roadways it can freeze," explained TDOT spokesperson BJ Doughty.
She continued, "We believe [the fog is] what caused the first initial accident there was the slick spot and the secondary accidents was due to the low visibility due to the fog."
"It was very foggy up here, very hard to see," Hendersonville police Lt. James Lawson said.
"I do not know what the initial contact was or the initial cause," he continued. "Anytime there's a cold morning like this and a lot of fog, there's a chance of black ice on the roadways. You don't see it until you hit it. Anytime you travel in weather like this, use your common sense and slow down and be smart with it."
The pileup quickly spanned more than a mile and before they knew it, drivers like Cheryl Davis were in the thick of the fog and the pileup.
"As we came around the curve, we noticed there was a truck, a four wheel drive truck, facing toward us. I guess it had already wrecked and we did what we could to avoid it, and couldn't avoid it, and it was just a chain reaction after that," Davis recalled.
She continued, "It was very frightening. [There] was a school bus full of children to the right of us. You could tell people were trying to avoid the bus. It was very frightening."
Davis told Nashville's News 2 it was obvious once she hit her brakes there was ice on the road.
The eastbound lanes of Vietnam Veterans were shutdown at Indian Lake Boulevard, one mile before the first accident scene.
Traffic was diverted to alternate routes, creating a travel nightmare for drivers who were urged to avoid the area.
Sumner County authorities reopened Vietnam Veterans Boulevard shortly before 1 p.m.
Hendersonville police set up a staging area at the county's administration building on Belvedere Drive in Gallatin for crash victims who did not require transport to the hospital but were unable to drive their vehicles from the scene.
Sgt. Vaughn said emergency management workers would be on hand to provide further assistance and medical attention as necessary.