The driver was Wendall Hale, 60, of Rogersville, who is well-known for regularly riding around town on a lawn tractor, usually pulling a small trailer carrying a female passenger, Marie Marcus, 58, also of Rogersville.
Thursday’s incident occurred around 1:47 p.m. at the Vista Drive intersection.
Rogersville Police Department Chief Doug Nelson told the Times News that Hale was driving his lawn tractor down the hill at Vista Drive toward Route 66-S when, according to Hale, the brakes failed.
“He lost his brakes, or it came out of gear, and he came flying down the hill,” Nelson said. “He tried to make a right turn at about 30 mph and threw her out (of the trailer).”
When the trailer flipped, Marcus was ejected and reportedly landed on the side of her head in the westbound lane of Route 66-S.
Her condition was reported over the radio dispatch as a “massive head injury.”
Marcus was transported by Hawkins County EMS to Hawkins County Memorial Hospital, where she was flown out via helicopter rescue, reportedly to Holston Valley Medical Center.
Nelson said she was still conscious when she was loaded on the helicopter, although she was in a lot of pain.
Following the incident, Hale reportedly jumped off the lawn tractor, which continued traveling down the side of the highway and struck a parked pickup.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol responded to investigate the crash and charged Hale with vehicular assault, DUI, driving on a revoked license, possession of an open alcohol container and improper use of an off-highway motor vehicle.
Several open bottles of liquor were allegedly found at the scene.
Hale also had a strong odor of alcohol, admitted he’d been drinking, and performed poorly on field sobriety tests, police said.
He submitted to a blood draw before being booked into the Hawkins County Jail.