About 8 a.m. on July 26, 2000, a work zone project began near milepost 85.6 on eastbound Interstate Highway 40 (I-40) in Jackson, Tennessee. This was the third day of an operation that consisted of milling rumble strips into the shoulder pavement. The three construction vehicles that were involved were positioned along the outside shoulder of the interstate. Two Tennessee Highway Patrol vehicles, with their emergency lights flashing, were also present to assist with enforcement and traffic control. The THP vehicles were stopped 450 feet and 950 feet, respectively, behind the construction vehicles along the right lane.
About 8:52 a.m., an eastbound 1999 International truck tractor pulling a loaded semitrailer, and traveling at a driver-estimated speed of 65 mph in a 55-mph work zone, collided with the trailing Tennessee Highway Patrol vehicle. Witnesses reported that the patrol car exploded and caught fire at impact. The patrol car was pushed approximately 192 feet before it came to rest in the median. The tractor-semitrailer continued through a 61-foot depressed earthen median and into the westbound lanes, where it collided with a 1997 Chevrolet Blazer. The tractor-semitrailer then continued across the travel lanes and came to rest in a wooded area on the north side of I-40. The State trooper in the Tennessee Highway Patrol vehicle was killed, and the Chevrolet driver was seriously injured.