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Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Tennessee Crash Kills 5 Cheerleaders
Teen Driver Had Restricted Permit, Shouldn't Have Been on Road
Tennessee authorities say that the 16-year-old driver of a sport utility vehicle that went out of control and killed five people should not have been on the road.
Shortly before midnight Friday on a wet, foggy highway in Scott County, about 40 miles northwest of Knoxville, Shirley Nikki Hughett was driving with three teenage friends. Suddenly, her SUV hydroplaned on a curve on a two-lane highway, flipped on its side and crossed the center lane, slamming into the oncoming car. The SUV burst into flames, and all occupants died.
None of the teenagers were wearing seat belts.
According to Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Browning, Miss Hughett held an intermediate restricted license, prohibiting her from driving after 11 p.m. or having more than one passenger in the vehicle.
Implemented in 2001, Tennessee's graduated license laws were intended to reduce traffic fatalities involving young drivers. Between 2002 and Oct. 6, 2008, the most recent data available, 1,073 teens were killed in car accidents in the state.
The safety laws created learner permit, intermediate restricted and intermediate unrestricted classifications for new drivers. Seat belts are required for passengers in a vehicle driven by a permit holder, and cell phone usage by drivers is prohibited.
The four high school cheerleaders, who only hours earlier been rooting on their football team, died in the crash. Police identified the teenagers killed as Scarlette A. Hill, 17; Jaime Hill, 15; Ashley Mason, 15; and the driver, Hughett.
Brandon Hughett, brother of Shirley Nikki Hughett, said the girls had been celebrating a fellow cheerleader’ birthday and were making their way home at the time of the crash.
A passenger in the second car, Jeweline Ledbetter King, 49, also died.
A University of Tennessee Medical Center hospital spokesman said King's daughter-in-law, 22-year-old Miranda King, was 33 weeks pregnant and lost her unborn baby. She remained in critical condition.
Malcum E. King Jr., 49, driver of the car, remained in serious condition at the hospital.
Ten-month-old Aiden Wilson was taken to a hospital but his condition was not immediately available.
Plans were under way in the Huntsville community to hold a candlelight vigil night at Scott High School, where the girls were students. Principal Bill Hall said that ministers, guidance staff and grief counselors were available to meet with help students cope with the loss.
Is your teen a safe driver? The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has developed a new Teen Injury Prevention course to emphasize driving safety for teenagers. For more information, including a Driver Education a Driver Education Book for Parents, visit www.safedriver.com.