Crash Victim Says I-440 Needs Better Medians - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Crash Victim Says I-440 Needs Better Medians

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Antioch resident Tammy Santomango was killed Sunday when her car went into the median on I-440 and launched into oncoming traffic. Antioch resident Tammy Santomango was killed Sunday when her car went into the median on I-440 and launched into oncoming traffic.
Rich Hunter and three others were hurt in Sunday's crash on I-440 that took the life of Antioch resident Tammy Santomango. Rich Hunter and three others were hurt in Sunday's crash on I-440 that took the life of Antioch resident Tammy Santomango.
A West Tennessee man nearly two years ago when a car kit the median and landed in the cab of a pick-up on I-440. A West Tennessee man nearly two years ago when a car kit the median and landed in the cab of a pick-up on I-440.
In October 2012, an 18-year-old died when his car crossed over the median on I-440. In October 2012, an 18-year-old died when his car crossed over the median on I-440.

By Adam Ghassemi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A retired firefighter and current helicopter medical technician was returning from an out-of-town trip when suddenly he became a part of a major crash scene. He said changes to I-440 could keep it from happening again.

The details were still fuzzy, but Rich Hunter said he remembered wearing his seat belt and keeping up with Sunday afternoon traffic.

"All the normal things to keep me safe and all of a sudden out of the blue here it came," he said Tuesday. "There was no reaction time. It was just a second."

Officials with the Metro Nashville Police Department said Antioch resident Tammy Santomango was driving a Lincoln Town Car and somehow left the eastbound lanes. Her car hit the berm in the median and launched into the air. 

Hunter first saw her Lincoln airborne as it was headed toward him.

"I saw this big, blue car coming up over the embankment and then the next thing you know, I was over on the side of the road climbing out of my car," he said.

The crash killed Santomango and sent Hunter and three others to area hospitals. Investigators were still working on a complete report from the crash.

Santomango's family told NewsChannel 5 Monday they understood the need for more safety features, but declined an interview citing the situation was still too emotional.

Hunter dislocated his thumb, damaged his left eye and was bruised all over, but he was expected to be okay. He said that had a lot to do with him being in such a large pickup truck that's now mangled.

Cars launching into oncoming traffic along I-440 was nothing new.

The same type of crash killed a West Tennessee man nearly two years ago when a car landed in the cab of a pickup. Last October, an 18-year-old died when his car crossed over the median the same way.

Every situation gave the other drivers nearly no time to react.

"It's like a big curtain or big hump there that hides everything, and all of a sudden it's in your face," Hunter said of the hill-like medians along sections of the downtown bypass.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation completed Interstate 440 in 1987, but its design dates back more than 35 years.

Spokesperson Deanna Lambert said Tuesday they were looking at adding even more guardrails and safety features in addition to the ones they already have. She said simply installing concrete barriers may make things more dangerous for speeding drivers.

"What we want to do is make the roads safe for everyone. We don't want to just put up something that could actually cause more people to get hurt," she said.

Lambert said TDOT's Office of Project Safety was reviewing I-440 to figure out if converting the medians to become more ditch-like, adding guardrails, barriers or even cables make more sense than what the interstate currently has.

Until then, Hunter said he hoped others don't get caught in the same situation with another car in mid-air and no way to avoid it.

"I think the way it is right now it's very, very dangerous," he said.

Email: aghassemi@newschannel5.com
Facebook: NC5_AdamGhassemi
Twitter: @NC5_AGhassemi

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