South Highway 321 in Cocke County was closed for about two hours Saturday evening following a two-vehicle head-on crash near Cosby School.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol says deputies with the Cocke County Sherriff’s Department were pursuing a 2013 Ford Fusion operated by Mitchell Presnell, 31, East Stagecoach Road, Greeneville, at the time of the 5:05 p.m. crash.
During the pursuit, Presnell attempted to pass another vehicle and collided head-on with a 2015 Jeep Wrangler operated by John Martin Jr., 43, who the THP said lives in Morristown.
Presnell and an unidentified male child in the Martin vehicle were sent to the UT Medical Center in Knoxville. At last report, Presnell was listed in critical condition.
Passengers in the Presnell car were identified as Meghann Hill, 41, Comington Drive, Dandridge, and Shannon Lafnear, 33, Carson Springs Road, Newport. Both were treated at the Newport Medical Center but Lafnear, who was wanted on several warrants, fled on foot from the hospital.
Martin, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was not injured. His passengers were identified as Sherry Cotter, 39; Damian Bures, 11; Nevaeh Bures, 9; and Austin Martin, 11, all of Morristown, according to the THP. All of the other passengers of the two cars were treated at the Newport Medical Center. The report does not indicate which of the juveniles was sent to the Knoxville facility for treatment.
A toxicology test is pending on Presnell.
Cocke County Deputy James Cupp says he observed Presnell traveling southbound on Cosby Road in the northbound lane. Cupp’s cruiser and a pickup truck were nearly struck by Presnell’s Ford Fiesta, leading Cupp to attempt a traffic stop. Pressnell continued to travel southbound in a reckless manner, passing vehicles on the double yellow line at 84 miles per hour.
After the crash a passenger in the Presnell car, Lafnear described Presnell as “crazy” adding that he had attempted to kill the occupants in his car. Presnell reportedly threatened to kill his passengers during the pursuit. After being sent to the UT hospital, emergency personnel reportedly found a baggie of methamphetamine on Presnell.
Cupp has charged Presnell with seven counts of aggravated assault, two counts vehicular assault, possession of methamphetamine, simple possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He also was wanted on charges of theft over $1,000 and theft of services.
The report by Cupp indicates the address for Martin and his passengers is Silver Fox Trail, Newport.