THP: Father reported vehicle in Loudon fatal crash as stolen
LENOIR CITY — The SUV that a 24-year-old man was driving when he was killed in an early Monday morning crash in Loudon County was owned by his father, who had reported the vehicle stolen earlier, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Christopher Bellnier of Lenoir City was driving a westbound 2002 Dodge Durango on Interstate 40 when he lost control of the vehicle in a curve on the ramp to Interstate 75 South, according to Trooper Philip Wagner. The Dodge struck a guardrail at a high rate of speed, went airborne and flipped several times, Wagner said.
Wagner said today that the SUV was owned by Bellnier’s father, who later told police that he hadn’t realized his son had taken the vehicle.
The SUV was involved in a minor hit-and-run accident near downtown Knoxville about 2:45 a.m., and Wagner estimates that the fatal crash happened about 3:30 a.m. although there’s no way to be certain.
The crash wasn’t discovered for more than five hours because the SUV plunged down a steep embankment after flipping over the guardrail, Wagner said. Bellnier was ejected from the vehicle as it “somersaulted and took some trees out” during its tumble down the slope, he said.
Bellnier’s license had been revoked at the time of the crash, but Wagner said it wasn’t immediately clear why.
Bellnier wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, Wagner reported, and blood tests are being performed to determine if alcohol or drugs were involved.