|On September 10, 2022 at approximately 12:40 PM, Kingsport Police Patrol Officers responded to a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 81 near exit 63 (Airport Parkway) in Kingsport. Due to the serious and complex nature of the crash, the K.P.D. Traffic Unit was called to the scene to investigate. Their subsequent investigation determined the following:
A dark blue 2019 Ram 1500 pickup was northbound on I-81. Meanwhile, a white 2018 Ford Transit van, a white Freightliner tractor-trailer, and a white Chevrolet 1500 pickup were all traveling southbound on I-81. For reasons still under investigation, the Ram pickup crossed the grass median and began traveling north directly into southbound traffic. The Ram pickup struck the side of the Ford van and then the front of the Freightliner tractor-trailer.
The Chevrolet pickup then ran off the right side of the road to avoid colliding with the other vehicles, but ended up traveling up an embankment, striking a tree, and rolling over. The Ram pickup caught on fire which further damaged it. The fire then spread to the double trailers (owned by FedEx) which were being pulled by the Freightliner.
The driver and passenger of the Freightliner sustained suspected minor injuries and were transported by Sullivan County EMS to an area hospital for treatment. The driver of the Ram pickup, Jonathan Alexander Merritt (29 years of age of Salisbury, MD), sustained suspected major injuries and was also transported by Sullivan County EMS to an area hospital for treatment. As of the latest information received, he remains hospitalized in critical condition.
The crash resulted in the complete closure of southbound I-81 and partial closure of northbound I-81 for approximately seven hours. Temporary detours were put in place by TDOT during the closure. By 8:00 PM, all lanes were back open, and normal traffic patterns had resumed.
This crash remains under open and active investigation by the K.P.D. Traffic Unit. As such, no further details are available for release at this time.