THP working triple-fatal accident in Sevier County

10:50 AM, Jul 9, 2012   |    comments
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At last check Shaun Dunlap is listed in stable condition and Kanika Dembla islisted in serious condition at UT Medical.

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Three members of the same family died in an early morning head-on collision in Sevier County. THP and Sevier County Sheriff's Deputies responded to the scene in the 3110 block of Wears Valley Road (U.S. 321) around 6:30 Saturday morning.

THP Trooper Howard Greenlee told 10News in a phone interview that Shaun Dunlap, 27, of Maryville was driving alone in his 2011 Ford Ranger truck on the wrong side of the road.

Trooper Greenlee said Dunlap crashed into a 2011 Honda Civic, carrying the Dembla family of India. They were on vacation in Pigeon Forge. Trooper Greenlee said Dunlap admitted to being tired and sleepy and thought he might have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Ashish Dembla, 24, was driving the Civic. His younger sister, Kanika Dembla, 20, was riding in the passenger seat. His parents, Dr. Sat Pal Dembla, 57, and Anjali Dembla, 51, were riding in the back seat. Ashish, Sat Pal, and Anjali all died in the crash.

Dunlap was wearing his seat belt as was Kanika and Ashish. Satpal and Anjali were not wearing their seat belts. Trooper Greenlee wrote in the report that seatbelts could have made a difference for the back seat passengers.

Kanika and Dunlap were both flown by Lifestar to UT Medical Center in Knoxville. Kanika Dembla is suffering from major head trauma and is in critical condition, according to Trooper Greenlee. Dunlap was also flown to UT Medical Center with moderate injuries.

Trooper Greenlee said it appears both vehicles were traveling between 45 to 50 miles per hour at the time of the crash. Dunlap had just left Gatlinburg and was traveling south toward Maryville. The Dembla family had just checked out of a condo and were headed north toward Pigeon Forge. Investigators found no evidence of alcohol or drugs at the scene.

Trooper Greenlee has been in contact with a cousin of the Dembla family who lives in Shreveport, LA. That person is coming to Knoxville to be with Kanika Dembla as she recovers in the hospital.

Ashish Dembla was working on his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

The accident report lists an Atlanta, Georgia address for the family. But, troopers tell 10News the family was visiting from Renali Delhi, India.  Trooper Greenlee clarified the discrepancy with 10News.  He said he used Ashish's Atlanta address for the entire family because he could not translate the identifying information the other family members were carrying.

Neighbors nearby woke up to the sound of the head on collision.

"It was so severe I had never never seen nothing like it in my life," said Janet Caylor, a Wears Valley resident.

Caylor became emotional recalling the details of scene. She said it is one she will never forget.

"It took them [rescue workers] forever to get them out. They took the whole top of the car off," she said.

It took around 30 firefighters more than 2 hours to get the victims out.

"This is the worst wreck we've ever had in Wear's Valley," said Firefighter Brandon Headrick.

Investigators plan to re-visit the accident scene on Monday to continue their investigation. Traffic citations and criminal charges are pending against Dunlap.

Previous Story

Three people are dead and two others are injured following a head-on collision Saturday morning in Sevier County.

According to Sevier County Sheriff Ron Seals, the accident happened at 3110 Wears Valley Road near Wears Valley United Methodist Church.

Sheriff Seals tells 10News THP is working the accident. The two injured patients were taken to an area hospital via Lifestar.

Editor's Note: The previous story had different spellings of the victims' names from investigators. The most recent report from investigators has corrected the spelling. Also, Trooper Greenlee told 10News that Ashish Dembla was a medical student at Georgia Tech, in Atlanta.  However, 10News has confirmed with a friend in India that Ashish Dembla was actually working on his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Georgia Tech.  The article reflects that change.

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