|On September 1, 2019, at approximately 5:15 AM, Kingsport Police Patrol Officers responded to a motor vehicle collision on westbound Interstate 26 near mile-marker 6 (Rock Springs Road exit) in Kingsport. Based on the seriousness of the injuries to those involved, the K.P.D. Traffic Unit was called to the scene to investigate. Their initial findings at the time were as follows:
A dark blue 2008 Honda Accord 4-door sedan, driven and solely occupied by Margaret C. Buck of Johnson City, TN, was lawfully traveling westbound on I-26 near mile-marker 6. Meanwhile, a black 2005 Mercedes C230 4-door sedan, driven and solely occupied by Zachary D. Hunt of Unicoi, TN, was unlawfully traveling the wrong way, eastbound in the westbound lanes of I-26, at the same location.
The Mercedes struck the Honda in a head-on impact. Both drivers were transported to a local hospital for emergency medical treatment, Mr. Hunt with non-incapacitating injuries, but Ms. Buck with serious/incapacitating injuries. The westbound lanes of Interstate 26 were completely closed for over three hours to allow for the initial treatment and transportation of the injured, the thorough investigation of the crash, and the safe removal of any and all involved vehicles and related debris.
The following day, on September 2, 2019 at approximately 9:00 PM, Margaret C. Buck succumbed to injuries sustained in the crash and died while still hospitalized. This has remained an active ongoing investigation by the K.P.D. Traffic Unit since the date of the crash. Early in the investigation, it was determined that Mr. Hunt entered Interstate 26 in his black Mercedes sedan going the wrong way (eastbound in the westbound lanes) via an I-26 exit (rather than entrance) ramp at the intersection of John B. Dennis Highway and Wilcox Drive.
Based on officer observations, witness statements, and evidence found at the scene, Investigators had sufficient cause to believe that alcohol consumption by Mr. Hunt was a significant factor in the crash. A warrant was obtained for a blood sample which was in turn sent to the T.B.I Crime Lab for analysis. The results received on October 2, 2019 revealed that Mr. Hunt had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of over two and a half times the legal limit.
On November 20, 2019 the facts of this case were presented to a Sullivan County Grand Jury which returned a true bill of indictment. On November 25, 2019 a capias/bench warrant was issued charging Mr. Hunt with the following:
1) Vehicle Homicide by Intoxication
2) Vehicular Homicide
3) Felony Reckless Endangerment
4) Driving Under the Influence
5) DUI with BAC over 0.08%
6) DUI with BAC over 0.20%
On the afternoon of December 4, 2019, Mr. Hunt turned himself in on the outstanding warrant, surrendering himself to authorities at the Kingsport Justice Center. He was processed in the Kingsport City Jail and then transferred to the Sullivan County Jail in Blountville where he will remain confined in lieu of a $25,000 bond.