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After clearing the scene of a single-vehicle crash Thursday that killed an elderly Tennessee woman on Interstate 65, firefighters found the body of her husband more than 970 feet south of the crash.
The man had left the vehicle and walked the edge of a creek bed where the Toyota sedan had fallen.
The couple later was identified as Claire R. Kahane, 75 and Charles S. Kahane, 78, of Nashville, said Norman Chaffins, spokesman for Kentucky State Police Post 4 in Elizabethtown.
Their car was southbound on I-65 when it left the roadway near mile marker 98 and struck a tree, spinning around and landing in a creek tucked below the highway, Chaffins said.
A witness driving north spotted the vehicle leaving the road and called police around 4 p.m. but was unable to describe exactly where the car left the road. First responders initially were directed near the 96-mile marker.
Chaffins said police received only one call about the wreck, which was unusual. The lack of information and secluded nature of the crash site resulted in a prolonged search for the car, which was heavily mangled from the crash and had dragged a portion of a tree down to the creek. Debris surrounded the vehicle.
Hardin County Coroner Dr. Bill Lee said the driver, who was wearing a seat belt and was not ejected, made no effort to swerve or stop to avoid colliding with the tree, which indicates a medical-related episode before impact. The car contained a number of medications, he said.
“I have to bet right now it was a medical event,” he said.
The seat belt was pressed tightly against the woman’s neck, Lee said, so he did not rule out asphyxiation. He said he would have to examine the victim further before he could definitively determine a cause of death.
The driver was extracted from the car around 6 p.m. KSP was assisted by Elizabethtown and Central Hardin fire departments and Hardin County EMS.
As Central Hardin left the crash site, firefighters found the body of a second victim more than 300 yards south of the vehicle. KSP Trooper Kevin Burton said the man may not have been found had he not been in a high spot visible to responders. He was missed during an initial search.
Investigators suspected the woman was accompanied by someone because the passenger seat belt was unbuckled in a locked out position and the door was ajar.
After investigating the scene around the second victim, Burton said the man had walked from the vehicle to the spot of his death and appeared to be looking for help when he collapsed. KSP was uncertain why the passenger walked along the creek instead of the road but disorientation may have played a role.
Asked about the cause of death, Chief Deputy Coroner Kenneth Spangenberger said “my best guess is his heart got him” during the walk.
Burton said police teach students in survival classes to stay in their vehicles after a crash because of the potential for injuries and trauma.
“I really wished he would have stayed where he was,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.