McMinn County teen, deputy injured in alleged texting-and-drivin

McMinn County teen, deputy injured in alleged texting-and-driving crash

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A McMinn County teenager is facing texting and driving charges after a crash that injured both the teen and a McMinn County sheriff's deputy. (source: The Daily Post-Athenian) A McMinn County teenager is facing texting and driving charges after a crash that injured both the teen and a McMinn County sheriff's deputy. (source: The Daily Post-Athenian)
Deputy Randy Gabrel (source: McMinn County Sheriff's Office) Deputy Randy Gabrel (source: McMinn County Sheriff's Office)
By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

ATHENS (WATE) - A McMinn County teenager is facing texting and driving charges after a crash that injured both the teen and a McMinn County sheriff's deputy.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol says the crash happened on State Route 39 near County Road 432 around 7:12 a.m. Wednesday. Troopers say a 1996 Honda Civic driven by Nicholas Austin, 17, was going westbound on Highway 39. Austin was allegedly texting and crossed the center line.

"We did see that he had sent out a text message at 7:10. The wreck came into the 911 call center at 7:12," said Trooper Travis Ryans.

Deputy Sheriff Randy Gabrel was going eastbound in his cruiser and had come to an almost complete stop in an attempt to avoid being hit by the Civic. The Civic continued across the center line and struck the deputy's cruiser in an offset head-on collision.

The impact sent the cruiser backwards approximately seven to 10 feet.

Austin was flown to UT Medical Center in Knoxville. Deputy Gabrel was flown to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. Neither victim's condition has been released.

The teen will face charges of failure to exercise due care and texting and driving.

6 News spoke with Austin's father who said his son was texting his girlfriend at the time of the crash.

Both THP and Austin's father are encouraging people to focus only on driving when behind the wheel.

"There is no text message worth your life or someone else's life," said Trooper Ryans.

Trooper Ryans calls Deputy Gabrel a good friend and hopes to talk to him soon. We asked Ryans what he will say to Gabrel the next time they meet.

"Thank God you're alive. Thank God you had your eyes on the road and were able to slow down to slow the impact down," he said.

Ryans says if Gabrel didn't slow down and try to avoid the crash, the wreck would likely have been deadly.
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