KNOXVILLE, TN – Cathy Clarke, 46, a staff photographer for the Knoxville News Sentinel and a former NPPA Chapters Board Representative, was severely injured Sunday in an car accident on Interstate 75 north of Knoxville. Clarke is in serious but stable condition today in the Critical Care Unit of the University of Tennessee Medical Center and has not yet fully regained consciousness, so details of the accident are not fully known.
Tracey L. Trumbull, director of photography for the News Sentinel, visited Clarke this morning and told News Photographer that she had been hit “very, very, very hard” in the wreck.
Trumbull said they have not yet received an accident report from the Knox County Sheriff’s Department, but they do know that Clarke was southbound on I-75 and returning to the newspaper from an assignment and was driving her company car, a four-door Chevrolet Impala sedan. Trumbull said Clarke was either tapped by another vehicle and lost control, or just lost control, and then she hydroplaned across the median and into northbound traffic.
“She was T-boned by a northbound SUV,” Trumbull said. The photographer’s car took the full impact of the crash on the passenger side of the vehicle. “They had to cut her out of her seat belts and the car. The air bags did not deploy. We don’t know if the people in the SUV were injured or not, but they must have been because of all the damage. Cathy has some big gashes on her head and stitches in her right hand, and there’s lots of bruising. Visitation is limited because she’s still in the hospital’s surgical ICU, and she’s not quite awake yet.”
Trumbull sent the newspaper’s staff an eMail update this morning and said, “Cathy’s looking better. Swelling from her head injuries has gone down quite a bit, and she’s struggling to open her eyes. The mention of coffee got her squeezing my and Paula’s hands. She’s starting to respond to other stimulus from her nurses, which we take as a good sign.”
“I saw Cathy tonight (Monday) and she was better than when I saw her earlier today,” photojournalist Patrick Murphy-Racey told Clarke’s friends. “She was responding by trying to open her eyes once and even squeezed my hand a few times. When you go in to see her, if you watch the EKG (heart monitor) her heart picks up speed when you start talking to her. These are fantastic signs that she is coming back to us, albeit very, very slowly.”
Friends of Clarke have started a Blog with daily updates to keep people informed about her condition. It is online here.
In March 2003, Clarke and reporter Bryan Mitchell embedded with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve 4th Medical Battalion as they traveled to Iraq. Before Knoxville, Clarke worked for newspapers in Glasgow, Henderson, and Owensboro, KY, as well as in Columbus, GA. She’s also a past president of the Kentucky News Photographers Association, and has been an NPPA member since 1986.
UT Medical Center where Clarke is being treated is the area’s only Level 1 trauma unit and serves Knox County and 21 surrounding communities. In 1999 it was recognized as one of the top three trauma centers in the nation by the University Health Consortium.