State trooper didn’t check inside wreck; body found later by tow truck driver

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has suspended a sergeant for two days without pay after he failed to find a man’s body in a wrecked minivan he didn’t “inspect or inventory,” reports the News Sentinel.

Sgt. Jeffrey Appleba, a 14-year veteran of the agency, didn’t open any of the minivan’s doors and only shined a flashlight into the vehicle, according to the 134-page report on his actions obtained through a public records request. He was suspended April 6-7 for not following protocol.

If Appleba had opened the doors, he would have found the body of Michael Floyd, 40, of Seymour, wrecker driver R.J. McMahan told THP investigators.

McMahan discovered Floyd’s feet protruding from underneath the deflated airbags of the van after he towed it to an impound lot from the South Knox County crash scene in December.

Floyd was eventually taken to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, where a physician pronounced him dead; then to the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, where an autopsy revealed he died from injuries sustained in a “low-speed” automobile crash.

Doctors didn’t take steps to establish an actual time of death for Floyd, Forensic Center Senior Director John Lott has said, raising questions as to whether he was still alive when Appleba failed to find him at the crash scene.

THP Sgt. Charles Massengill, who investigated the incident, opined in the report that death “could have been imminent” for Floyd due to either drugs in his system or the nature of his injuries from the crash.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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