Community looks to leaders for answers after 2 killed at Selmer car show

SELMER, Tenn. —  More than 24 hours after a car ran through the barricades at the Rockabilly car show in Selmer, killing a couple engaged to be married, city leaders cut their news conference short when the father of the woman killed asked the question many want to know — Why wasn’t a stronger barricade put in place to protect those attending the car show?

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 5.04.15 PM “Very disappointed in what has come out cause there was no answers to questions,” Cassandra Harris, eyewitness and family friend of the victim, said. “There was no answers to why these two people had to die.”

Residents said they are in shock over the tragedy. Several community members tell WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News they attended the Sunday news conference hoping for answers.

“It is my understanding that the answer to that question is at this time, I don’t have all the information,” Selmer Mayor John Smith said.

No one was able to answer what caused 91-year-old Aaron Stamey to lose control of his vehicle and run over and fatally injure Michael Johnson and his fiancee, Sherri Duncan.

By request of the Selmer chief of police, the Tennessee Highway Patrol has taken the lead on the investigation.

Troopers said answers will take time.

“We want to be able to answer any and all questions that the family may have, and that’s why it takes so long,” Tennessee Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Lt. Brad Wilbanks said. “Toxicology reports, that type stuff, so right now it would be inappropriate to guess or assume.”

Sherri Duncan’s father, Larry King, asked city leaders why there wasn’t a stronger barricade during the car show, something he said could have saved him the hurt of losing his only child.

“I want to know why,” King said. “This makes eight lives lost right here in this town. Why we can’t learn from the first one to the second one to keep people from getting killed?”

This was Mayor John Smith’s response before he abruptly ended the briefing.

“There are several things that we need to discuss between ourselves, but Mr. King, our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Smith said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to just see what we may or may not need to do.”

Residents said there was visible difference in safety precautions at this year’s car show. They said there is usually some type of emergency vehicle blocking the road, but this year that wasn’t the case.

Around 8 p.m. Sunday, Selmer Mayor John Smith released the following statement:

“The safety and well being of our citizens is our highest priority. As we review the events of yesterday’s tragedy, we will pursue any opportunities for improvement to add additional security to any future events. We are a tight knit community and consider all our citizens like family. And their safety will rain superior with any strategic plans for improvement. Our priority right now is with the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased, to offer them all our support and prayers during their time of loss. Many citizens witnessed this tragic event. We plan to offer counseling and support to any citizen with a crisis intervention team at 10 Falcon Street, Monday evening at 6:30. My office is always open and at the completion of the findings, we will offer complete transparency to the public. We are cooperating fully with THP and all authorities, and please continue to keep everyone in your prayers.” 

The community has gathered in prayer for the lives lost.

The First Baptist Church congregation prayed for both the victims and those left behind Sunday morning as they began the healing process.

First responders are planning a critical incident stress debriefing at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

The counseling is free and open to the public. Those planning to attend are asked to arrive at the emergency 911 building.

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