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Work continues on U.S. 27 Tuesday, August 9, 2016.
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Work continues on U.S. 27 Tuesday, August 9, 2016.
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Work continues on U.S. 27 Tuesday, August 9, 2016.

First Baptist Church would have to bring in ice and use paper plates, but the spirit of its weekly meal for the homeless this week remained the same, pastor Thomas Quisenberry said.

The church received a blow Monday, literally, when a tractor-trailer hauling a piece of equipment for the U.S. Highway 27 revamp rolled down a hill and slammed into the building, scattering bricks and debris into a kitchen located in the fellowship hall area.

One man who was working on the truck was injured, but not seriously. The church's programs and services are proceeding as scheduled, although the kitchen was closed indefinitely for cleanup.

"I think the one thing we're grateful for more so than anything is that nobody else was hurt," Quisenberry said. "This was seemingly an isolated incident, which we're grateful for. It could've been much worse if there had been people in the parking lots or folks in the kitchen, and thankfully that wasn't the case."

The equipment the trailer was hauling belonged to a sub-contractor working for Dement Construction, which is handling the $126.3 million project that will straighten the highway between Interstate 24 and the Olgiati Bridge.

The trailer struck a support beam, which prevented it from entering the kitchen further, but the church has been told that the building is structurally sound, said Quisenberry, who was on the other side of the church when the collision happened.

"I first got a report from someone who was in that area who came and mentioned to me that a truck had hit the church," he said. "I did have to listen to them two or three times before I really understood what they meant.

"It was a little shocking. I ran outside and it still took a moment for the eyes to believe what they were seeing. But we're grateful it wasn't any worse than it was."

Insurance agents and building inspectors have been to assess the damage, he said.

Construction on the highway project is scheduled to last until July 2019. It's the most expensive road project in state history, and Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said the safety of the public and the contract crews is "critically important to us."

"The most difficult type of project to do is a reconstruction project on a heavily traveled corridor in an urban area," Flynn said in a statement. "The contractor must maintain a certain level of service for the drivers who use the corridor, while safely completing a major construction project."

No cause of the accident has been revealed.

A dentist's office and a titling business relocated before the road project began. The 2.3 miles that will be revamped in the project combine with the 1.6 miles that were completed last year north of the Olgiati Bridge to create 3.9 miles of widened and straightened highway knifing through the heart of the city.

Quisenberry said the church will acknowledge the first responders who arrived at the scene this week during Sunday's church services and pray for the man on the tractor-trailer who was injured.

"There's a lot that's just unknown, even as we're in the cleanup," he said. "The inspections are ongoing and the kitchen is closed, and we're doing what we can in going forward."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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