Blue Ridge Parkway-- Two teenage girls escaped serious injury Tuesday after their car crashed on the Blue Ridge Parkway, an accident rescuers said could have been worse if a tree had not kept the vehicle from plunging off the steep mountainside.
The single-vehicle wreck was reported shortly before 11 a.m. at milepost 402 near the Beaver Dam Gap Overlook, about nine miles south of Asheville.
The accident shut down the parkway for more than an hour while emergency crews worked to free the driver, who was pinned in the car.
Parkway rangers did not immediately release the names of the teens, who were transported to Mission Hospital with injuries that did not appear life-threatening. Rangers were still investigating what caused the accident. The girls are from the Asheville area, rescuers said.
The Acura was traveling north, toward Asheville, when the driver lost control in a curve and skidded off the right shoulder, slamming into a tree.
Emergency crews from the Upper Hominy and Skyland fire departments responded. Rescuers used cutting tools to remove the roof and a door of the car to free the driver, whose leg was pinned in the vehicle, Upper Hominy Capt. Mike Gibson said.
He said the tree likely prevented the crash from being much more serious. That section of the parkway is about 3,570 feet in elevation, with sheer dropoffs of hundreds of feet within a few yards of the roadway.
"It could have been real bad," Gibson said. "The parkway is a dangerous place. There are no guardrails. You're lucky if you have trees to keep a car from going down the embankment. A lot of areas are wide open."
Parkway district ranger Tim Francis said the parkway, famous for its scenery, also can be treacherous because of the steep terrain and sharp curves. The parkway records about 300 traffic accidents annually on the 469-mile roadway in North Carolina and Virginia, with three to four fatalities a year.
While investigators haven't released the cause of Tuesday's accident, many of wrecks on the parkway are caused by motorists' inattention, he said.
"We always warn folks to watch the road," Francis said. "Enjoy the view, but watch the road."
To see pictures of the crash click here.
Sabian Warren, Asheville Citizen Times