By Dave Russell
A head-on two-vehicle crash last Thursday on U.S. 74/441 near Smoky Cove Road killed both drivers and snarled traffic for hours.
The 911 call came into dispatch at 3:09 p.m., according to S.T. Hyatt, the N.C. Highway Patrol trooper who worked the accident. Hyatt was on scene almost immediately, she said.
There were no passengers in either vehicle, she said.
Clayton Franks, 63, of Sylva, was traveling westbound near Smoky Cove Road in a black 2008 Chevrolet Silverado when he crossed over the concrete median into the eastbound lane, Hyatt said.
“I don’t think he traveled a long period of time westbound in the eastbound lane,” Hyatt said. “When he crossed over the median, he struck that van head-on pretty quick.”
The 1998 tan Ford van was driven by Jose Jesus Martinez-Sandoval, 37, of Whittier.
Hyatt estimated both vehicles were traveling 55 mph, the posted speed limit in the area.
First responders requested a Mountain Area Medical Airlift helicopter to standby.
“I think they were trying to assess the injuries and get someone on standby but the men were pronounced deceased on scene so that was canceled,” she said.
No other vehicles were involved. Traffic was backed up until about 5:30 p.m., she said.
Franks’ truck left tire impressions measured at 127 feet, which might have indicated braking, according to 1st Sergeant Scott Smith of the N.C. Highway Patrol.
In addition to the Highway Patrol, first responders from the Qualla Fire Department, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Rescue Squad, Jackson County Emergency Management and Harris EMS were on scene.