Updated: Driver injured, pulled from van crash that sparks gas line fire

Car Crash and Gas Line Fire Oak Ridge Turnpike

The male driver of this Honda Odyssey minivan was taken to the hospital after he crashed into a wooded area alongside Oak Ridge Turnpike and sparked a gas line fire. The area of the gas line fire is in the left foreground.


Note: This story was last updated at 9:05 p.m.

A male driver was taken to the hospital after a westbound minivan went down a small embankment on the north side of Oak Ridge Turnpike, crashed into a wooded area, and sparked a gas line fire on the east end of town.

Driver Thomas Debusk, 43, of Knoxville, was taken by ambulance to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, the Oak Ridge Police Department said.

The cause of the crash, reported at about 1:43 p.m., was not immediately known. The gold 2003 Honda Odyssey van driven by Debusk struck an aboveground natural gas pipeline in a small basin below Oak Ridge Turnpike and next to the parking lot at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is across from Tractor Supply. [Read more...]

Former Oak Ridge rowing director could lead ORCVB

Marc DeRose

Marc DeRose

Note: This story was updated at 5:55 p.m.

A former Oak Ridge rowing director could become the next executive director of the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The ORCVB board of directors on Thursday voted 4-3 to offer the job to Marc A. DeRose, subject to reference checks. If hired, DeRose will replace former longtime director Katy Brown, who became ORCVB president in 2006 and left in July to take a new marketing and promotions job covering Knoxville and Chattanooga.

DeRose was hired by the Oak Ridge Rowing Association in August 2013, and he resigned from his head coach and rowing director position in May of this year, saying the job was “not the right fit for me and my family,” the ORRA said in a press release this spring.

Other candidates for the ORCVB job, which offers a starting salary of $45,000 per year, were Lila Wilson, director of special events for the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, and Naomi Asher, executive director of CASA of the Tennessee Heartland. ORCVB board members said Asher withdrew her application, saying she wanted to continue working for CASA.

Wilson received three votes on Thursday, picking up one less than DeRose’s four. [Read more...]

Oak Ridge firefighters save five lives, fire trucks help, chief says

Oak Ridge Firefighters Lifesaving Medals and Harness Family

Oak Ridge firefighter and engineer Michael Vanosdale, left; Captain Eric Rackard, second from left; and paramedic Austin Keathley, right, helped save the life of Jason Harness, 50, second from right, on July 21. The three firefighters received Lifesaving Medals during a September 5 ceremony for three new fire engines. Also pictured is Nicole Harness. “These are the men that saved my husband’s life,” she said.


Oak Ridge firefighters have saved five lives so far this year, and the department’s fire trucks—which carry $30,000 worth of medical gear, including cardiac equipment—played a key role, Fire Chief Darryl Kerley said this month.

The five lives have all been saved since January; they were cardiac saves, Kerley said.

“That wouldn’t happen without these trucks,” the chief said during a September 5 ceremony to unveil three new Sutphen fire engines, the first for the Oak Ridge Fire Department in about 16 years.

Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley

Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley

During that ceremony, three firefighters received Lifesaving Medals for their role in saving the life of Jason Harness, 50, on July 21 at Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue.

Harness’ wife, Nicole Harness, reported that her husband was in the car and not breathing that summer evening. The rescuers who responded moved Jason Harness from the vehicle to the ground, where “he was found to be pulseless, not breathing, and unresponsive,” Assistant Fire Chief Josh Waldo said.

Harness had had a massive heart attack, with 100 percent blockage. [Read more...]

After sluggish start, Wildcats double scoring output in second half

Oak Ridge Wildcats Malik Hardy and Halls Red Devils

Senior wide receiver Malik Hardy (15) runs for a 16-yard touchdown in the third quarter as the Wildcats beat the Halls Red Devils 42-0 in Oak Ridge on Friday. (Photos by Julio Culiat)


Note: This story was last updated at 11:35 a.m. Sept. 13.

The Oak Ridge Wildcats got off to a sluggish start in the first half on Friday, but doubled their scoring output in the second.

All of the second-half points—four touchdowns—came in the third quarter of the 42-0 win over the Halls Red Devils, the second shutout of the season for the Wildcats.

Junior running back T.J. Allison (six carries, 53 yards) rushed for three touchdowns for the Wildcats, one in the first half and two in the second.

Red Devils coach J.D. Overton said Halls is a young, inexperienced team that was playing without a half-dozen starters on Friday night at Blankenship Field in Oak Ridge. He declined to say why the players were sitting out the game. Two of those starters play offense and defense.

“They didn’t play tonight,” Overton said. “That’s all I’m going to say.” [Read more...]

Three possibly injured after truck crashes into Waffle House

Truck Crash at Waffle House

Three people inside the restaurant had possible injuries and one person was taken to the hospital after a Ford Ranger pickup truck crashed into the side of the Waffle House on South Illinois Avenue just after noon Friday.


Note: This story was last updated at 3 p.m.

Three people inside the restaurant had possible injuries and one of them was taken to the hospital after a pickup truck crashed into the side of the Waffle House on South Illinois Avenue just after noon Friday, police officers and workers said.

Emergency workers also checked out the male driver at the scene, but he declined to be taken to the hospital, authorities said.

The crash, which punched a hole in the wall behind the grill, occurred at about 12:08 p.m. Friday. The cause wasn’t immediately known, the Oak Ridge Police Department said.

There were reports that there had been a small explosion at the grill, but that hadn’t been confirmed, the ORPD said.

Several employees and customers inside the Waffle House reported hearing a boom or explosion.

“It sounded like it was blowing up,” server Deborah Driggers said. “All I remember is screaming, ‘Everyone out because we’ve got gas.'” [Read more...]

Lincoln’s Sports Grille requests court hearing after beer permit revoked

Lincoln's Sports Grille

Lincoln’s Sports Grille on South Illinois Avenue is pictured above. (File photo)

A few days after its beer permit was revoked late last month, Lincoln’s Sports Grille requested a hearing in Anderson County Chancery Court and asked that the revocation be put on hold while the legal case is pending.

Lincoln’s, which had its beer permit revoked by a city board on August 28, said it has been hit with a “more substantial penalty than similar establishments have faced with similar conduct.”

The beer permit of the popular restaurant and bar, which opened about 4.5 years ago, was revoked for one year after its fifth show cause hearing before the Oak Ridge Beer Permit Board, and the second called after Lincoln’s sold beer to a minor.

In a petition filed September 2, Lincoln’s asked the Anderson County Chancery Court for a hearing to determine whether the business “violated any rules of conduct pertaining to the sale of beer and the appropriate punishment.”

The litigation could be protracted, the petition said. Lincoln’s is represented by Oak Ridge attorney Kevin C. Angel.

“Failure of this court to issue a stay of the Beer Board’s decision will result in irreparable loss to the petitioner (Lincoln’s) because it severely impacts petitioner’s ability to do business while the matter is pending,” Lincoln’s said. “On the other hand, if this court grants a stay and ultimately upholds the decision of the Beer Board, the petitioner can still be suspended for a year after this court’s decision. Thus, a stay of the Beer Board’s decision is in the interest of justice.” [Read more...]

School bus service restored Sept. 15; new routes announced

Oak Ridge School Buses at the Central Services Complex

The 1.5 parent responsibility zone, or PRZ, approved in June will end September 15. There will still be a .15-mile PRZ for elementary school students and a .25-mile zone for middle and high school students.


Note: This story was updated at 1:08 p.m.

The 1.5-mile parent responsibility zone approved by Oak Ridge school officials in June will end September 15. School bus service then will be the same as it was during the 2013-2014 school year.

There will still be a .15-mile PRZ for elementary school students and a .25-mile zone for middle and high school students, which is the same as last year. In that zone, parents are responsible for getting their children to and from school; bus service is not provided.

In a press release Monday, Oak Ridge Schools said parents and family members should check the appropriate school website for new bus route information. Times are approximate.

Students should be prepared to board the bus 10 minutes before the scheduled time, the press release said. All routes are dependent upon regular ridership and may be altered or suspended at any time.

“As a reminder, please make sure your child is registered for bus service at their school prior to September 15,” the press release said. [Read more...]

City Council to consider Friendship Bell grant app, Woodland rezonings

Friendship Bell Housing Demolition

Workers began demolishing the International Friendship Bell structure during the last week of July. (Photo by Bill Moore Jr.)


The Oak Ridge City Council will consider applying for a $100,000 grant application to help rebuild the Friendship Bell House in Alvin K. Bissell Park, and members will also consider a preliminary plan and re-zonings that would allow a retail development on 2.29 acres along South Illinois Avenue between Aldi grocery and Weigel’s gas station and convenience store.

If Council approves, the city would apply for a Friendship Bell grant from the Japan World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Fund, which supports projects that “contribute to international cultural exchange and international goodwill.” The city is requesting $100,000 to match $50,000 from the Oak Ridge Capital Projects Fund and $50,000 from private and community contributions and donations. The grant application outlines a 50/50 match requirement if the request is approved.

A February inspection determined that the 65-70 percent of the wooden support beams in the bell house were compromised and showed substantial deterioration, Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Department Director Josh Collins said in a memo to City Manager Mark S. Watson. [Read more...]

Updated: Oak Ridge scores six TDs in first start for Fadnek

Oak Ridge Wildcats Shawmain Fleming and Clinton Dragons Zack Jones

Oak Ridge defenders, including nose guard Shawmain Fleming (#78), wrap up an elusive Clinton running back, junior Zack Jones (#10). (Photos by Julio Culiat)


Note: This story was last updated at 10 p.m. Sept. 7.

CLINTON—Clinton struck first, scoring on an 80-yard touchdown pass on the opening play of the game.

But Oak Ridge answered with two touchdowns of its own. The second score, a five-yard run by junior T.J. Allison, put Oak Ridge on top 14-7 at 5:38 in the first quarter. The Wildcats never trailed again.

Four other Wildcats (2-0, 1-0 District 3-AAA) also scored touchdowns in the 44-21 win over the Dragons (1-2, 0-2), the first district game of the season for Oak Ridge, and junior Brandon Nickle added a field goal.

It was the first start for junior Wildcats quarterback Logan Fadnek. Fadnek also played last week against the Farragut Admirals, but junior Gavin Warrington started at quarterback in that game. On Friday, Fadnek completed 11 of 21 passes (52.4 percent) for 196 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.

Sophomore wide receiver Tee Higgins had a team-high 117 yards on five catches, including a 35-yard touchdown pass lofted high in the air near the right pylon with 32 seconds left in the first quarter. Higgins, who is 6’3” and 175 pounds and also plays basketball, was second in rushing yards, picking up 33 yards on one carry. [Read more...]

New Roane State building has health science labs, high-tech classrooms

Goff Health Sciences and Technology Building

Roane State Community College officials will celebrate the new Goff Health Sciences and Technology Building during a Friday morning ribbon-cutting ceremony in Oak Ridge. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will be a featured guest.


This new $13.8 million building at Roane State Community College mixes high-tech amenities with new teaching techniques, and it eases overcrowding at the Oak Ridge campus. It adds space for health science classes and programs such as surgical technology, organic chemistry, and pharmacy technician students. It also incorporates environmentally friendly design features such as a reflective white roof, lights that adjust automatically, geothermal wells that help heat and cool the building, and rain gardens that capture storm water runoff.

The high-tech amenities include “smart dummies” that can be programmed with symptoms to train nursing students, full multimedia and wireless systems in classrooms, and more than 300 computers, including in five computer labs. There is a distance education classroom with microphones hanging from the ceiling, and an engaged learning, or “flip,” classroom, where students do homework before class and come prepared to collaborate and solve problems.

A new surgical technology program, co-sponsored with Walters State Community College, will be housed here. There is a new organic chemistry lab, and Roane State’s pharmacy technician program is moving to Oak Ridge from the college’s main campus in Harriman. There is also a “flex lab” that can be easily and quickly configured to suit the training needs of area industries. It has a high ceiling and bay door, plenty of power and conduits, and gas and ventilation.

The new three-story, 64,000-square-foot building—officially named the Goff Health Sciences and Technology Building—might be described as Melinda Hillman’s “baby.” Hillman, who is Roane State’s vice president of advancement and community relations, has spent thousands of hours during the past six years working on the project, from its inception in 2008 through the planning and fundraising stages to the end of construction. She will be among those celebrating during a Friday morning ribbon-cutting ceremony that will feature special guests, including Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

“It’s sort of ‘birthing a baby,’” said Hillman, who clearly has a passion for the project and hasn’t taken a vacation in a year. “I’ve worked on it so long.”

Hillman and Owen Driskill, Roane State’s director of marketing and public relations, recently led reporters on a tour of the brick-and-coated-metal building, the last expansion that the 40-acre Oak Ridge campus can accommodate. [Read more...]

Anderson County Commission appoints new chair, vice chair

Robert McKamey

Robert McKamey

The Anderson County Commission on Tuesday appointed a new chair and vice chair.

The new chair is Anderson County Commissioner Robert McKamey, who represents District 5, which includes the Clinton High, Dutch Valley, Marlow, and Norwood precincts.

The new vice chair is Steve Emert, who represents District 3, which includes Andersonville, Fairview, Glen Alpine, and Norris.

There were no other nominations for chair and vice chair during the five-minute special meeting at the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton on Tuesday morning.

McKamey will replace Commissioner Chuck Fritts of District 1 (Claxton and Bull Run). Fritts did not seek to be re-appointed as chair after three terms. [Read more...]