2 identified in West Knoxville wreck that killed driver

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The driver and passenger in a speeding vehicle that crashed in West Knoxville Tuesday night have been identified.

Mitchell Hayes (source: Facebook)The driver, Mitchell Hayes, 20, was killed.

The passenger, Timothy Tabors, was injured.

The crash happened just after 8 Monday night off Kingston Pike in West Knoxville. The Dodge Neon SRT-4 the men were in wound up in the parking lot of the Lovell Heights Shopping Center. 

The moment the crash happened, Juan Aranda says the deafening noise stopped him in his tracks. "Enormous noise, I thought a train was coming by."

Aranda ran outside of his restaurant, El Charro Mexican, to investigate. He was the first person on the scene.

"It was like a war zone. We found parts of the car all the way to the entrance of the restaurant," Aranda said.

Police say Hayes and Tabors were heading east on Kingston Pike around 8:24 p.m. at a high rate of speed when Hayes came up to a vehicle that slowed because another vehicle was making a turn.

Hayes lost control of the Neon, slammed into a TVA Credit Union sign, did a series of 360 degree turns, then hit a brick pillar before coming to a stop in a parking lot.

Police said the brick pillar was hit with such force it was moved from its foundation nearly an inch.

"It hasn't hit me yet," said Hayes' friend, David Jimenez.

He says Hayes had a big passion for fixing up his car. "He had a bunch of stuff done to it like a bigger turbo," Jimenez said. 

Friends remember Hayes as an outgoing guy who loved life. "He was a really good friend, just miss him, just hate seeing this," Jimenez said.

Those who saw Monday night's crash have a message. "I have a message to those young people. Please, please be careful. That young life we lost there was just not necessary," Aranda said.

"Don't speed. Look at what happened to my friend," Jimenez said.

Tabors was taken to UT Medical Center. 

Mitchell Hayes' father visited the site of the accident Wednesday morning, taking pictures, and trying to piece together his son's final moments.

He broke down in tears, too distraught to go on camera. Hayes graduated from Loudon High School two years ago.

Principal Cheri Parrish says she remembers Hayes as a very good student, and it's a travesty that he lost his life so early.

Hayes attended Bearden High School as a freshman and sophomore before graduating from Loudon County High School.

Tabors graduated from Karns High School last week.

There's no official word on whether the men were wearing seat belts. Police aren't sure at this point if Tabors was ejected, but the investigation of the crash continues.

Investigators are inspecting the Dodge Neon and reviewing evidence recovered from the scene as well as witnesses' statements.

The Dodge engine appears to have been modified recently to increase performance, according to police.