A small car plowed into the back of a mail truck early Thursday, killing one person in one of several chain-reaction collisions of 50 cars on a fogbound highway near Nashville.
It appeared the car struck stopped traffic during the morning commute, said Ray McLaughlin, a district chief with the Hendersonville Fire Department. As the fog lifted, damaged vehicles could be seen along a mile of Vietnam Veterans Parkway in Hendersonville.
"I would compare it to a racetrack when there's been a pileup," McLaughlin said. "Everyone started bouncing off one another."
The chief said emergency workers counted 179 vehicles stopped at the crash scene, 50 of which had collided.
Paul Warren, 28, of Hendersonville was killed, said Shawna Zodi, a spokeswoman for Hendersonville Medical Center. She said eight people were released after treatment for minor injuries.
Ken Weidner, of the Sumner County Emergency Management Agency, said ambulances took 17 people to the hospital.
Other than the one death, most of the injuries were neck and back complaints, McLaughlin said.
Jim Carr, 41, of Hendersonville, said the curved overpass section of the highway had a thin layer of ice on it and the fog hindered people from stopping in time to avoid cars in front of them.
"Once you had contact, you just looked in your rear view mirror and held on tight," he said of the cars crashing into one another.
He said after the wrecks, people got out of their cars and started checking other vehicles for injured passengers or drivers. He got out and tried to walk to the beginning of the pileup.
"The fog was so thick, I walked for a while but I didn't see the end," he said.
Tom Johnstone, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Nashville, said the temperature in the region dropped to 25 degrees around the time of the crash occurred. There were reports to the weather service of freezing fog and the fire chief said a raised section of the highway where the crash occurred had become slick.
Diana Denney, 57, was on her way to work in a cafe with her apron on when she saw the cars stopped in front of her. She pumped her brakes and came to a stop, but then her SUV was hit by other vehicles.
"I started hearing all this banging behind me," she said of the sound of the crashing vehicles. "I have never been involved in a wreck like this."
Carr said he's going to take more precaution next time.
"I think I'll just go in late next time on a foggy day," he said.