Manhunt for driver who killed Chattanooga woman

Reported by: Erik Avanier
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Updated: 7/20/2013 4:59 pm
LA VERGNE Tennessee(WDEF/ WTVF) - Investigators have been searching for the suspect in a fatal hit-and-run crash on Interstate 24 near Sam Ridley Parkway exit.

One person was killed and two others were injured.

The crash happened on eastbound I-24 near mile marker 66 in Rutherford County around 2 a.m. Saturday.

Officials from the Tennessee Highway Patrol said a vehicle was traveling the wrong way on the interstate when it struck another vehicle head on.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation said multiple vehicles were also struck.

The victims have been identified as Cynthia Joyner, 31, of Chattanooga who died, Jack Gaillard, 39, of Chattanooga who was injured and Shanna Phillips, 30, of Ringold who was also injured.

One of the two injured victims was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. The other was transported to nearby StoneCrest Medical Center in Smyrna.

Eastbound lanes were closed for several hours while troopers conducted their investigation. Westbound lanes were also effected with rubbernecking delays. 

Troopers said the driver at fault fled the scene. They believed the suspect to be 35-year-old Ruben Prado-Pena from Nashville.

Investigators said alcohol was suspected as a factor in the crash.

A manhunt was underway after a NewsChannel5 photojournalist reported seeing a person matching Prado-Pena's description walking into the woods at Mason Road and Industrial Boulevard in La Vergne.

Troopers set up a perimeter to search for the suspect.

Law enforcement personnel from the La Vergne Police Department, Rutherford County Sheriff's Office and a helicopter from the Metro Nashville Police Department were aiding the THP in the search.

The search was scaled back around 2:30 p.m. because of the hot temperatures. Some police officers had to receive medical attention for heat exhaustion.

Hot weather was also causing problems with the search helicopter, which uses a heat sensor to search for suspects. The hot temperatures were causing problems with their readings.

Officials were still canvassing the nearby neighborhoods and businesses.

The suspect's wife was being questioned about his whereabouts. Police said she was cooperating fully with their investigation.

Anyone with information about Prado-Pena's whereabouts has been urged to call the THP Nashville District Office at 615-741-2060.

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