Saturday marks one year since the fatal accident on I-75 north near the Ooltewah exit. Staff members at nearby hotels were the first on the scene and vividly remember that fatal day. They say that part of the interstate still haunts them.
“They were just out of their mind, scared,” said the Assistant General Manager of the Holiday Inn Express, Tiffany DeOcampo. They are phone calls Tiffany DeOcampo will never forget. Her desk clerks called to tell her there’s been a fatal accident. “We had pedestrians running into the hotel, screaming we need fire extinguishers. There's been a wreck.”
Only a few feet from her hotel, six people were killed on I-75 near Ooltewah. Tina Skinner was on her way home when she learned the news. “Devine intervention. I took the back way home that night or I could have possibly have been in that accident,” said the Assistant General Manager of the Hampton Inn, Tina Skinner.
She believes her staff and guest were heroes. “All of our guests were racing out to see if they could help. Employees were taking out extinguishers. Everybody was racing out to see what they could do.”
A year later, the hotel managers still get emotional. They avoid the interstate as much as possible. “I don't drive the interstate anymore because of that,” said DeOcampo.
“I actually take the back way home. I never go that way anymore,” said Skinner.
As the Ooltewah community continues to heal, Skinner hopes everyone can learn some lessons from that day. “Slow down, it's not worth the risk. Wherever you have to be it is not worth changing so many lives over.”
A lawsuit has been filed in connection to each death. The trial for the man behind the wheel of the tractor trailer, Benjamin Brewer, is expected to start in November. Brewer faces more than a dozen charges, including six counts of vehicular homicide and DUI.