I was there (Car Number 67 in the graphic above) and the stench from Bowater was unusually heavy that morning. I have no doubt their operations mad the fog heavier that day. I drove between Chattanooga and Knoxville often during that time and the stench was VERY heavy in comparison to any other time before or since.
As I passed the exit ramp to the right travelling south on I-75, it was as if a "sheet" was thrown across my windshield. Yes, a sheet. Sun was out, which made it worse. The fog was illuminated and obscured, well, everything.
I was driving too fast. My 24 year old ego was still in control of my driving. I’d been through here in the fog before, so I thought it’d be okay.
I hit my brakes as the car in front of me slowed to @ 30 MPH as we left the “thick” fog and entered the wall of "no man's land" fog. It was SO thick I can't describe it in a way for anyone not there to understand PLUS the glare of the December sun - the "Perfect Storm."
No sooner had I released my brakes then the car in front of me slammed his back on and seconds later hit the pile up. I locked up my brakes and our bumpers tapped. "Damn! My day's gonna be spent dickering with the insurance companies now." Little did I know it was gonna be worse than that... much worse.
I leapt out of the car and when the crashing continued behind me, ran for my life.
I helped extract an elderly man out of his smashed Volvo. I tried to help others. The fires start to appear out of the mist. You could feel the heat before you saw the flames. Carnage EVERYWHERE.
My angels were watching over me that day. Shoot, they worked overtime!!!
My car was barely damaged, so I had to stay and remove it once a path was cleared. I left @ 4 pm. I spent the day helping others, listening to heroic stories and tragic stories, and wandering around.
I want to share one in hopes it prevents a future traffic tragedy. A converted bus caught fire; the driver conscious inside. His feet were pinned. He was screaming as he burned alive; screaming for someone to cut his feet off; screaming for a gun so he could kill himself; screaming for his life. Others had to restrain his screaming wife in the median as she witnessed his death. I was lucky enough to miss this scene, but others will take the moment to their graves.
There were numerous victims that day. Those that lost their lives, friends and family of those that lost their lives, and anyone touched by the incident such as myself and the emergency responders that came to help. My heart goes out to all of them with hopes that they are doing well and have found peace regarding this incident.
I relive this wreck every time it's foggy outside.
Thank you to the Red Cross for the Krystal hamburgers, fries and drink you gave me as I wandered the scene. Thank you to the fellow smokers that gave me cigarettes (I've since quit). Thank you God for sparing me and my family from additional tragedy.