An unexpected splash… Driver walks away uninjured after vehicle lands upside down in Watauga River

Published 12:07 am Friday, March 27, 2020

It was a beautiful day for a drive on Thursday but not a dip in the river as a Carter County driver found out.
Brandon Lee Trotter was driving his Ford Explorer Sport west on Wilbur Dam Road on Thursday when he lost control of the vehicle coming out of a curve and hit a white Dodge Ram driven by Randal Street.
Street was pulling a hay rake behind his truck and after striking Street’s pick up the Explorer veered off the right side of the road traveling down an embankment of approximately 25 to 30 feet, taking out a tree limb before flipping upside down in the cold waters of the Watauga River.
Uninjured, Trotter was able to climb back up the bank soaked to the bone and covered in mud after escaping from the cab of the Explorer.
Street, who also was uninjured, meanwhile was left with a burst tire from the impact as well as damage to the driver’s side of the Dodge truck.
“This is probably the worst one that I have had to fish out,” said Aaron Moore of Elite Towing, who was called upon to help extract the truck from the river below.
With the help of Michael Hazelwood, who retrieved a chainsaw and began cutting away brush so the truck could be pulled out, Moore waded into the chilly waters and hooked his wrecker via cable to the upside-down vehicle.
After 15 to 20 minutes of wrangling the vehicle, Moore was finally able to bring the truck back to the asphalt surface of the roadway.
It was a tag-team effort by several people to retrieve the vehicle as Amanda Grindstaff stated that this wasn’t the first time an accident had happened on the stretch of road.
“There have been several accidents along this one stretch of highway,” Grindstaff stated. “People just go too fast through here. It wasn’t that long ago that another truck went down the embankment.”
Trotter stated that he was just thankful that no one was seriously injured in the accident.
“I have been in worse wrecks than this but it was the first time I was actually driving,” stated Trotter. “I have been having a little problem with air not staying in one of my tires and that may have been a part of it plus I was probably going a little faster than I should have been.
“I am just thankful everyone is okay.”
Carter County Emergency Management Director Gary Smith was on hand to verify there wasn’t a need to report any environmental issues due to gas leaking into the river.
Carter County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Burchfield responded to the accident and stated that Trotter would be cited for driver’s failure to exercise due care and no insurance. The deputy stated that Trotter said that he had insurance but didn’t have proof on him at the time of the accident.
Traffic was delayed for about 30 minutes to allow for the vehicle to be taken away.

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