In ‘fight with a tree,’ teens come up short
by By GREG KAYLOR Banner Staff Writer
Mar 24, 2013 | 2164 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Car crash
Banner photos, GREG KAYLOR
WALKER VALLEY HIGH principle Danny Coggin is passionate about his student’s education opportunities and their safety and welfare. Typically, “Prom Promise” programs promote driving safety for students who attend the annual prom. This year, a different message is being presented. During the past few weeks, three Walker Valley students have suffered life-changing injury due to car crashes. This is Brandon Hodnett’s mangled car.
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“It’s an argument you can’t win,” according to the father of a young man critically injured in a recent car crash.

Brandon Hodnett, 17, suffered many broken bones and other traumatic injuries after his car left the roadway on Frontage Road and crashed into a tree.

The severity of his injuries are due to the “fight with a tree,” according to Mike Hodnett, Brandon’s father.

Brandon’s vehicle slid driver’s side first into the tree. The impact ripped open the car’s roof. The driver’s side door caved in toward his body, causing multiple compound fractures to his legs. His torso and legs were wrapped in the steel of the car. He wasn’t breathing when, coincidentally, a hospital employee at Erlanger Medical Center, who reportedly saw the crash occurring, stopped to aid the 17-year-old Walker Valley High School senior.

Mike Hodnett had gone to school with his son’s angel, who kept him alive by keeping his airway unobstructed.

Mike said his son was travelling about 70 miles per hour along Frontage Road in Charleston. He attempted to negotiate a curve. Brandon had his girlfriend in the car with him.

According to Mike and Bradley County Sheriff’s Office reports, she suffered minor injuries, was treated and released from the hospital.

Brandon was not so lucky, but he is still alive and will be facing possibly life-long challenges due to his injuries. To complicate matters, Brandon had a stroke due to his injuries.

“It’s life-changing,” Mike said.

“He (Brandon) has experienced the fact that he was speeding,” Mike said.

“Young drivers think with more spirit than real thinking. They think they are invincible. It’s simple, you hit a tree … you lose the argument,” he added.

Mike reflected on a recent tragedy where Caleb Harrod, 17, a lost his life when his vehicle collided with a tree while he was driving on Hunt Road.year.

“Brandon and Dylan Cross are both at Erlanger,” Hodnett said.

Cross crashed his vehicle into a tree just days after Brandon’s crash. Cross is also a WVHS student. His classmates have placed a placard in his parking space at the school.

Earlier this week, Mike Hodnett was granted the opportunity to display Brandon’s mangled car at the high school. Students have witnessed the after effects and carnage as they come through the gates.

Some visit the car and pray for their classmates who have experienced these life-changing events, praying for their recovery and the long road ahead.

“A crash like this doesn’t just happen to the child. Our entire family has been affected,” Mike said.

“Parents — educate your children. We placed the car at Walker Valley to provide a visual image as to what can happen. Spring break is here,” Mike explained.

“Teach them to pay attention to driving rules and laws. We have educated Brandon. It’s the child who makes the decision to follow our rules or not,” he added.

“Also, tell your children video games involving high-speed racing or fast cars are just games. They aren’t real. TV and movies aren’t real. Teach them about safety and thinking what could happen not only to them, but how it would affect your family and their friends,” Mike said.

Several other students at WVHS have also experienced crashes this year. Some were life-changing or altering, others were significantly minor in nature, but costly nonetheless.

WVHS principal Danny Coggin has a passion for his students, greeting them each day in his own unique way and constantly reminding them of driving home safe at the end of each day. Coggin typically uses the public address system to deliver his message.

When the opportunity came to display Brandon’s vehicle, it didn’t come without some concerns, but the overall message is clear from Coggin.

“The presence of this vehicle means we are trying to promote safety to our young people here at WVHS. This is a reminder of what can happen if you are not careful,” Coggin said.

“We take this very seriously. We want our kids to be safe. We care,” Coggin added.

BCSO has increased presence in the Walker Valley area and Tennessee Highway Patrol is also planning an increase in traffic saturation during key times of the school day.

“We never like to write citations,” Capt. W.G. Campbell of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office said.

“Our message is simple — students and parents, slow down, pay attention, don’t let distractions get in the way, don’t text while driving,” Campbell said.

Sheriff Jim Ruth also said, “It is not our desire to issue citations but we will if need be. We want all to arrive at their destination safely. Springtime is here and school will be dismissed for the summer. I want to remind everyone to pay attention, mind the speed limit and buckle up. Deputies will be out in force stopping drivers for offenses.”

As a part of the awareness campaign Lifesaver, which was instituted two years ago, the sheriff’s message is expected to be delivered to each student and parents via telephone as well as from school administrators.