Authorities said an impaired driver was responsible for a crash Wednesday in Maryville that sent a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper to the hospital.
Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Trooper Ernest Marion, 48, of Maryville, was taken by ambulance to Blount Memorial Hospital following the crash on East Lamar Alexander Parkway. A hospital spokesperson said Marion was in stable condition Thursday.
Marion had stopped at the scene of a crash near Music Row, 2808 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, to assist Maryville Police officers investigating the crash, according to police reports. Marion was trying to help clear the roadway, according to a THP report, and was sitting in his cruiser with his emergency lights activated when the driver of a 2001 Dodge 2500 pickup crashed into the back of his cruiser at around 4:06 p.m.
A THP spokesperson said Marion was complaining of neck and back pain before being taken to the hospital.
The driver of the pickup, Odley David Akins, 66, Old Chilhowee Road, Seymour, was arrested on charges of DUI and felony reckless endangerment. He was released from the Blount County jail on bonds totaling $4,000 and appeared at a 1:30 p.m. hearing Thursday in Blount County General Sessions Court.
At the hearing, which took place before Blount County General Sessions Judge William R. Brewer, Akins said he wanted a court-appointed attorney. When Brewer was reviewing the affidavit Akins completed, he noted that Akins had listed some income and owned a home sans mortgage.
“The court cannot find that you’re indigent,” Brewer said.
Brewer told Akins he had property he could borrow against to hire a lawyer, and would have to represent himself or hire his own attorney. Akins told the judge he could not afford an attorney.
“I’ll represent myself,” Akins said. “Not guilty.”
Brewer reset the case for April 4, and advised Akins to at least consult with an attorney about the case. Brewer told Akins that if convicted, he could be looking at prison time.
“The felony is a serious charge, as well as the DUI,” Brewer said.
Akins was also cited on charges of failing to move over for law enforcement, failure to exercise due care and violation of the financial responsibility law. Akins brought his proof of insurance card with him to the court hearing, but Brewer told him he did not need to see it at that time.
‘Couldn’t Get Stopped’
After the hearing, Akins told The Daily Times he’s not disputing that he crashed into Marion’s cruiser. Akins said he was pulling a horse trailer and a roughly 1,200-pound Tennessee walking horse when he came upon the accident scene. Akins, who was traveling east toward Walland, said the trooper’s cruiser was parked in the right travel lane and he was unable to stop in time.
Akins said he crashed into the back of the trooper’s cruiser. The force of the collision pushed the cruiser around the crash site, Akins said.
“He’s in the hospital,” Akins said of Marion. “I hope he’s all right.
Akins said he left skid marks “for a good ways” on the roadway, and estimated they ran for 35 yards or more down the road.
“I hit him in the back, I couldn’t help it,” Akins said. “... I just couldn’t get stopped.”
While he doesn’t dispute the crash, Akins said he’s not guilty of the DUI and felony reckless endangerment charges. He and his wife, Donna Akins, said he takes medications for diabetes and a quintuple bypass surgery he had back in 2002. The medications sometimes make him drowsy, they said, but Odley Akins said he wasn’t drowsy at the time of the crash.
He and his wife contend he just couldn’t stop in time and the crash was unavoidable. Both said the trailer and horse he was towing made it impossible to stop.
“It could not be prevented,” Donna Akins said. “And he was not drinking.”