Chapman Highway residents await more changes one year after dead

Chapman Highway residents await more changes one year after deadly church van crash

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By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

SEVIER COUNTY (WATE) - It's been almost one year since a deadly crash in Sevier County claimed the lives of a youth pastor and a teen and residents told 6 News they are still waiting for more safety improvements to the roadway.

The main change along portions of the highway is the presence of a rumble strip running down the center, which is meant to alert drivers they are crossing the middle, but some residents said that isn't enough.

"I feel scared for my kids," Sevier County resident Frank La Rocco said.

La Rocco lives just feet away from the site where youth pastor Jeffrey Trussell, 45, and Courtney Kaliszewski, 16, were killed in a crash after an SUV crossed the center hitting the van head on.

The driver of the SUV was identified as Tyler Schaeffer. According to THP, narcotics were found inside Shaeffer's wrecked SUV.

La Rocco said he saw the horror of the crash unfold from his backyard.

"People were crying and screaming," La Rocco said. "We seen some smoke coming from the van about two or three minutes after that they hit it with one fire extinguisher but it didn't help."

Since then, TDOT has put in a rumble strip along the area near Zion Hill Church Road where the crash happened.

"To me it's a very small move for all the people we have seen get killed or injured," La Rocco said.

Lawmakers like State Sen. Doug Overbey have been working with TDOT to continue to explore more safety precautions for Chapman Highway.

"A year has gone by and I wish we could do better and we need to do better but it's more important to do something right than to do it quickly," Overbey said.

Those close to the victims in the deadly crash said their wounds are still healing.

"It's been a long, long process," Pastor Bob Lynch said. "We're trying to move on beyond the wreck and beyond the tragedy because we have to keep going on."

Lynch said he hopes TDOT will make changes to improve the road's safety.

"Anything to slow people down a little bit would be helpful," Lynch said.

"Barriers would help because we've seen a lot of accidents here," La Rocco said.

TDOT said it is continuing to look into safety improvements for Chapman Highway.

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