MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Police in Murfreesboro say a 54-year-old man was killed and three of his grandchildren suffered non-life-threatening injuries when another driver forced their vehicle into a ditch in what police are investigating as a road rage incident.
Authorities say James Smithey Jr. was driving around 6:45 a.m. in Murfreesboro when another driver ran his pickup truck into a ditch. Police spokesman Kyle Evans said they were still trying to locate the other driver, who drove off in a white Oldsmobile-type vehicle.
Liz Stacy, Smithey's daughter-in-law, told The Daily News Journal that he was not wearing a seat belt because of a medical condition and was thrown from the truck while his grandchildren, ages 14, 8, and 7, looked on.
The children were not seriously hurt, but were transported to a hospital for injuries and were expected to recover.
"They are just really shaken up," Stacy, Smithey's daughter-in-law, said. "The younger one doesn't fully understand. We just let them all know that their grandfather isn't here anymore but he loved them."
Witnesses said the driver did not stop after running Smithey's truck off the road and was last spotted near an entrance of the Nissan Plant in Smyrna.
"We are working on obtaining video of that vehicle and plan to release it if successful," Evans said. "It isn't known whether that person works at Nissan or simply was evading at that point."
Stacy said she does not believe that Smithey would have escalated the incident with his grandchildren in the car.
"I know that he would not have put the children at danger," she said. "Had he been alone, maybe. I know he wouldn't intentionally speed up or try to race him or anything."
Evans said the driver of the other vehicle crash could face "some type of homicide charge" due to the fact there is a "criminal element" to the crash.
Police are asking anyone with information about the crash to contact the department at 615-893-1311.