Truck driver granted probation after crash that injured trooper

Truck driver granted probation after crash that injured THP trooper

Posted:
Sgt. Lowell Russell (Source: Department of Safety) Sgt. Lowell Russell (Source: Department of Safety)
Eric Dwayne Lewis (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) Eric Dwayne Lewis (source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The truck driver who was responsible for a fiery 2012 crash that seriously injured a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper was granted one year of unsupervised probation Monday as part of a plea deal. Lewis was convicted of felony reckless endangerment.  Leland Price was the prosecutor in the case.

"He has to pay court costs in the matter.  Restitution was not sought in this criminal case because there was civil litigation where that's being taken care of," said Price.

Lewis had been charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and failure to drive within a single lane of traffic.

Lewis was driving west on I-40 near the Gallaher View Road exit in March 2012 when he said he fell asleep at the wheel.

Lewis then struck the vehicle of Trooper Lowell Russell, who had just finished up a traffic stop.

Lewis and emergency workers from a passing Rural/Metro ambulance stopped to pull Russell from his cruiser as a fire burned in the back and passenger side of the vehicle.

Russell was nearly killed, but survived and spent several weeks in the hospital where he underwent a spinal fusion surgery.

Russell did not appear in court Monday. His victim impact statement was read by attorney Leland Price.

"He had forgiven him and that he was comfortable with this agreement and he just wanted Mr. Lewis to have a productive life the rest of his life," said Price.

In the impact statement Trooper Russell writes, "I have no animosity or hard feelings toward Mr. Lewis and I do not believe that incarcerating him would accomplish anything." The statement goes on to say, "I would strongly encourage you to volunteer your time to help disabled veterans."

Russell also addresses all drivers, writing: "If drivers are tired and sleepy they should stop and rest. To those drivers who drink and do drugs stay home. There is no reason to be on the road driving."

Price says drivers should listen to the advice.

"You need to be fully aware of what's going on you don't need to be texting or talking on the phone and if you feel yourself sleepy or drowsy just pull over and rest," said Price.

Eric Lewis would not speak on camera, but did say in court he was sorry for the accident.

Lewis is not eligible for judicial diversion due to his prior criminal record.


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