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Tennessee Ambulance Crew Saves Highway Patrol Officer in Crash

If the ambulance crew hadn’t been right there.

If a Knoxville police officer hadn’t been seconds away. If the second officer hadn’t circled back on a hunch.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Lowell Russell, 39, was critically injured in a violent collision with a flatbed truck while parked in his cruiser on the westbound shoulder of Interstate 40 near Walker Springs Road early Tuesday morning.

Authorities said he likely would have died, though, if not for a succession of emergency personnel who miraculously happened upon the scene within seconds of the 2:50 a.m. crash. They frantically worked to free the unconscious trooper from the mangled wreckage, pulling Russell clear just as his cruiser burst into flames.

“As we say time and again – divine intervention,” Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a game of seconds. If neither the officers or the paramedics had been in the area, we would have had a much more tragic situation.”

First on the scene were Paramedic Freddie Leslie and his partner Kristi Graham, who were traveling back to McMinn County in an American Medical Response ambulance after transporting a patient from Athens to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

The duo was driving about a quarter-mile behind as the commercial truck slammed into the rear of the cruiser, shoving it across three lanes of traffic and into the concrete median wall.