Looking back at the Worst Traffic Accident in Tennessee History

Chattanooga, TN (WDEF) – 25 years ago tonight, the holiday season took a horrible turn here in the Tennessee Valley.

It happened on I 75 over the Hiwassee River near Calhoun. Both sides of the interstate were blocked with multiple fires and fatalities.  

At the time the accident was the worst crash in U.S. history….99 cars… 12 people killed and another 42 injured…it was an unimaginable scene that unfolded 25 years ago… Stan Clark one of the first emergency responders to make it to the scene that day.  Will take you through the events from that day….



"Charred trucks and cars lined the interstate."

"Victims out of wreckage on this stretch of I-75."

"A girl from Virginia was pulled from this wreck. She survived. Her mother did not."


Bradley County EMS Paramedic Stan Clark said, "It was a scene that those of us that responded to will never forget for the rest of our careers and for the rest of our lives….

You know 8 …9 o’clock in the morning beautiful morning I’m traveling north bound on I-75 and I reach the  Hiwassee river bridge and everything just went white. You are traveling along on a beautiful day and all of a sudden you can’t see anything. It is a total white out.  

You know I honestly did not know what to expect and as I started seeing the images it was totally over whelming, because I knew that people were dead in front of me.

 I knew that there were cars.  There were some cars that were destroyed beyond recognition and there were people still inside those vehicles that did not make it out and those images will forever be burned into my mind when I think back about it …

It was just such an overwhelming event when you see something like that initially it just plays over in your mind like a tape rewinding. You just keep seeing it.  You keep seeing it.  You keep seeing it.

One particular scene in the accident was a car that had hit the back of an 18 wheeler. Some of the truck drivers and bystanders were able to go to the car and get a child out of the vehicle to the side of the road to safety, and when they turned to go back to the vehicle, another 18 wheeler came along, hit the car, and smashed the car completely flat like an accordion with the person still inside the car and that was one of the first things I saw when I got there was that car completely flat between the two 18 wheelers. 

 It was a horrific accident and those images were burned into my mind when I think back about it."


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