Tennessee trooper identified in fatal Interstate 24 crash as investigation continues

In this file photograph from December 2009, THP Trooper Butch Reeves inspects an abandoned car in the rain atop Monteagle Mountain in Marion County, Tenn.

Officials have identified the state trooper involved in a fatal crash earlier this week, but the investigation into the collision that claimed the life of a Ringgold, Ga., motorcyclist could go into next week before more details are released.

Twelth Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Dave McGovern is heading the investigation into the crash Saturday on Interstate 24 in Marion County, Tenn. Vehicles driven by Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper Butch Reeves and 66-year-old Ringgold, Ga., resident Jim Garner were involved, as well as an SUV with unidentified occupants. Garner was killed in the crash.

"We're still in the early stages of [the investigation]," McGovern said. "They're digging in and hope to possibly have a partial report before the week's out and a more thorough report in the next 10 days or so."

Reeves is an experienced officer with several years of service with the state agency, McGovern said Wednesday. According to a Times Free Press interview in 2009, Reeves has been with Highway Patrol since about 1999.

THP officials in Nashville did not respond to questions Thursday about Reeves' employment status.

The accident happened Saturday at 2:13 p.m. CDT at mile marker 161 in the eastbound lanes of I-24 in heavy traffic on the bridge over Nickajack Reservoir, according to authorities.

Garner was the lone rider on a motorcycle when Reeves' trooper car struck him from behind, District Attorney General Mike Taylor said.

Taylor said he didn't know what contributing factors were involved in the crash yet, but noted that "my preliminary indication was that [the trooper] was not on an emergency call," Taylor said.

Details are still being gathered by THP traffic crash investigators, he said.

Taylor said the interstate in Marion County seems to have constant traffic problems.

"I-24 is getting to be a very dangerous stretch of road between Monteagle and Moccasin Bend," Taylor said.

Garner was buried on Wednesday.

In his obituary, he was described as having "a huge heart" and was said to have been "loved by many far and wide." He was a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a Sunday school teacher at Fort Oglethorpe United Methodist Church and owner of Infrared Research Inc.

His family members said he "always loved a good party." Garner leaves behind a wife, two adult daughters, two sisters and a number of grandchildren.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.