Middle school principal killed after car crashes into businesses

Middle school principal killed after car crashes into businesses

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(Source: Bledsoe County Schools) Principal Deborah Thompson was paying her bill at the Tomato Head in West Knoxville Thursday when she was struck and killed by a vehicle crashing into the business. (Source: Bledsoe County Schools) Principal Deborah Thompson was paying her bill at the Tomato Head in West Knoxville Thursday when she was struck and killed by a vehicle crashing into the business.
The car initially struck a customer at the Tomato Head restaurant. The car initially struck a customer at the Tomato Head restaurant.
It then came to rest in the Wild Birds Unlimited store next door. It then came to rest in the Wild Birds Unlimited store next door.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A middle school principal was killed while paying her bill at a local restaurant after a car driving through the parking lot crashed into two businesses.

Thursday afternoon at 2:30 p.m., officers responded to a one-vehicle crash at 7240 Kingston Pike, a West Knoxville shopping center that is home to the Tomato Head and Chili's, among other businesses.

According to the preliminary investigation, a Chrysler 300 driving through the parking lot left the roadway, went airborne over a concrete wall and then crashed into two businesses.

The first business the car entered was the Tomato Head Restaurant. The car came to rest in Wild Birds Unlimited.

"One second we were fine, we were discussing birds and feeders, blue birds and all sorts of things and the next minute there was an explosion," described Kathy Getsey, manager of Wild Birds Unlimited. "The wall, the side, the common wall of Tomato Head literally exploded into the store, we didn't know it was a car until the debris settled.

Bledsoe County Middle School principal Deborah Thompson was paying her bill at the Tomato Head when she was struck by the vehicle. She was pronounced dead at University of Tennessee Medical Center.

"They were trying to get the gentleman out of the car and trying to help every one else when they discovered there was someone under the car," Getsey described.

According to Bledsoe County Superintendent Charlie Young, Thompson had worked in the Bledsoe County school system for about 10 years. She was a special education teacher before being promoted to principal.

The male driver of the vehicle was transported to the hospital with what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries.

Several other customers in the Tomato Head received minor injuries in the wreck.

Police do not believe alcohol was involved. They are working to reconstruct the scene to figure out what happened.

The property managers of the shopping center are helping the businesses secure the locations and figure out how to rebuild.

"There was no structural damage, the buildings are sound," said Justin Cazana, property manager.

Wild Birds Unlimited will move into an empty adjacent storefront and Tomato Head will work to fix the front entrance.

"You don't expect a car to be able to go that deep into a building like that, it was definitely worse case scenario," Cazana said.

 

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