Two die when church van collides with SUV in Sevier County

Two die when church van collides with SUV in Sevier County

Posted: Updated:
The accident occurred on Chapman Highway and Zion Hill Church Road. The accident occurred on Chapman Highway and Zion Hill Church Road.
This van was carrying passengers from Cedar Grove Baptist Church. This van was carrying passengers from Cedar Grove Baptist Church.
One person was in the Chevrolet Blazer. One person was in the Chevrolet Blazer.
Tyler Schaeffer (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Tyler Schaeffer (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)

SEYMOUR (WATE) - Two people were killed and several injured Sunday morning in a fiery wreck when their church van collided with an SUV in Sevier County.

Jeff Trussell, 45, who was driving the van for Cedar Grove Baptist Church, and a passenger, Courteney Kaliszewski, 16, were killed.

Trussell was the church's youth pastor. Kaliszewski was a junior at Seymour High School.

The vehicles collided just south of Seymour on Chapman Highway, near Zion Hill Church Road.

Tennessee Highway Patrol officials say a Chevrolet Blazer crossed the center line of the road and hit the van head-on. The van came to rest in a roadside ditch.

The driver of the Blazer was identified as Tyler Schaeffer. According to THP, narcotics were found inside Shaeffer's wrecked SUV. Charges against him are pending.

THP initially said Schaeffer was killed in the wreck, but later retracted that information. He is listed in critical condition.

Seymour Volunteer Fire Department firefighters say the van caught fire a few minutes after impact.

Witness James Settle said he pulled up on the scene just minutes after it happened. Settle said he had never seen such a serious accident.

He said members of the youth group were working to save one another.

"They were pulling people out of the van," Settle said. "They were pulling them by their arms and legs.

Settle said he climbed into the van and attempted to save two others trapped inside, but the growing flames forced him out.

At least two medical helicopters and three ambulances transported victims from the accident to area hospitals.

Twelve passengers, ranging from teenagers to adults, were in the van at the time of the crash. The Cedar Grove Baptist Church members were returning to Blount County from a retreat in Gatlinburg.

Knox County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Martha Dooley said Schaeffer was convicted of one felony count of robbery in January 2011. At that time, he was sentenced to six years at a state penitentiary.

Dooley had no information on why Schaeffer had been released early.

Schaeffer was also charged with theft in a July 2010 incident at a Subway restaurant on Middlebrook Pike.

Chapman Highway was closed for several hours while crews worked the scene.

Powered by WorldNow

1306 N. Broadway NE Knoxville,
Tennessee 37917

Telephone: 865.637.NEWS(6397)
Fax: 865.525.4091
Email: newsroom@wate.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Young Broadcasting of Knoxville, Inc. A Media General Company.