Driver who hit gas pump, Clarksville house had 5 wrecks in last year

7:56 PM, Aug 21, 2013   |    comments
John Ward
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By Chris Smith / Gannett Tennessee

CLARKSVILLE, TENN. - A man who crashed into a house on Monday and had previously caused an explosion by crashing into a gas station on July 4 had three similar wrecks in the last 12 months, including hitting another house in May.

Documents obtained by The Leaf-Chronicle revealed that John E. Ward, 57, has had five such wrecks in the last year, all of which involved veering off the road.

Despite the series of wrecks - including the gas station explosion that caused critical injuries to a bystander - Ward has maintained a driver's license from the state of Tennessee.

The wrecks

On Aug. 18, 2012, Ward crossed oncoming lanes on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard and hit a sign next to a bus stop, went through the front yard of a business and slammed against a utility pole guide wire, according to a Clarksville Police crash report.

Two witnesses said they had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.

Ward told police he didn't remember what happened and said he must have blacked out due to an anxiety attack, the report said.

His 2001 Buick LeSabre was disabled and towed away.

On April 7, Ward was driving a 2000 Saturn L200 on Warfield Boulevard when he blacked out and crashed into a ditch, a report said.

His car was disabled and towed away.

On May 3, Ward veered across an oncoming lane and crashed into a house at 2303 Old Russelville Pike, disabling his rental 2013 Dodge Avenger.

Ward again told police he must have blacked out because of an anxiety attack.

Cliff Keen, who owns the rental home, said Wednesday that Ward almost hit the home's tenant.

"He'd just got inside," Keen said. "He was fortunate he didn't get hit."

Keen said the impact cracked the brick exterior, damaged the inside drywall and cracked the foundation.

On July 4, as previously reported, Ward crossed oncoming traffic in his Lincoln MKZ and hit a gas pump at the Exxon station at 715 S. Riverside Drive.

The impact caused an explosion that critically injured a Clarksville man, Chris Porter, with third-degree burns.

Porter was discharged from Vanderbilt University Medical Center on July 30, hospital officials said.

A car parked at the gas station was destroyed in the resulting fire, and the building was damaged.

On Monday, Ward crashed a rented 2013 Ford Escape into a house at 3201 Twelve Oaks Blvd., narrowly missing another house along the way.

That wreck smashed a garage door and damaged a wall of the house.

Ward told police he'd felt dizzy, then blacked out. He also told police he is hypoglycemic and is on medication for stress.

Facing charges
Following Monday's wreck, police discovered the incident from July and contacted the Tennessee Department of Safety to speed up the process that requires Ward to be retested and re-evaluated in order to maintain his driver's license, according to Clarksville Police Sgt. Charles Gill.

On Tuesday, Ward, who gave a 3083 Wilma Rudolph Blvd. address, was charged with reckless driving in the Monday incident and booked on $5,000 bond.

Gill emphasized that the Clarksville Police Department has no authority to revoke a driver's license, and that can only be done by the Department of Safety or by a judge.

Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls confirmed Wednesday that the Driver Improvement Section received CPD's request to review Ward's driving privileges.

"We are reviewing that information, along with Mr. Ward's driving history, and will determine if any action should be taken," Qualls said.

A person up for suspension has 30 days to either ask for a hearing or submit medical information from their physician.

Drivers who have lost control or lost consciousness while driving due to a medical condition must be suspended and be lapse-free for at least six months from the date of the incident before the department will consider reinstating their license, Qualls said.

Ward has not returned phone calls seeking comment.

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