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Bledsoe Co. principal dies after car crashes into shopping center

5:30 PM, Mar 1, 2013   |    comments
  • Bledsoe Co. Middle School Pricipal Deborah Thompson died when a car crashed into a west Knoxville shopping center. courtesy WRCB
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Update 7:47 a.m. Friday

We now know the name of the woman killed when a speeding car crashed into a west Knoxville shopping center.

At around 2:30 p.m.Thursday, witnesses saw a Chrysler sedan careening through the Gallery Shopping Center.

The car hit the front of the Tomato Head's concrete patio and went airborne through a wall dividing that business and Wild Birds Unlimited next door.

According to Knoxville police, Bledsoe County Middle School Principal Deborah Thompson was checking out at the restaurant's register.

She was caught in the car's path and KPD says she was pronounced dead at U.T. Medical Center.

The driver of the car was also taken to the hospital but police expect him to recover.

The crash injured several others.

The driver has been identified as Dewayne Edward Kelley, 53, of Lennox View Way.

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Knoxville police say a woman in her fifties was checking out at the register of Tomato Head's West Knoxville location, when a speeding car launched over the patio and into the store injuring the woman.

She was pronounced dead at UT Medical Center and officials are not yet releasing her name.

The accident happened in the 7200 block of Kingston Pike, east of West Town Mall at around 2:30 pm on Thursday.

Police worked to recreate the crash this afternoon to figure out why the car lost control.

A blood sample has been sent for testing from the driver. Officers say they do not suspect alcohol was a factor at this time.

Several witnesses reported the car was speeding, some estimating it to be going about 60 miles an hour in the small and curvy lot.

KPD says the car went airborne after striking the concrete Tomato Head patio. It crashed through the wall dividing the restaurant and its next-door neighbor, Wild Birds Unlimited.

The manager of Wild Birds Unlimited says they were shaken up, but uninjured.

The man driving the car was also taken to the hospital but is expect to recover, according to KPD.

Several other Tomato Head customers and employees suffered minor injuries from the debris.

Sport Seasons Assistant Manager Andrew Long was working next door when he saw the car fly by and crash.

"There was a customer in a store next to ours that was stuck behind a bookshelf," said Long. "We helped her get out and checked on the driver."

Other employees initially feared an explosion in the building.

KPD will continue to investigate the cause of the crash.

The manager of Wild Birds Unlimited says they hope to reopen Friday in a neighboring storefront.

No word on when Tomato Head may reopen.

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