published Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Unum employee killed in accident

by Adam Crisp

The death of a Unum employee, killed in a hit-and-run accident Wednesday morning, has cast a shadow of grief over the downtown insurer's campus.

Susan Wood, 42, was struck at Walnut and Fourth streets as she was reporting for work about 7 a.m. Wednesday, said Chattanooga Police Department spokeswoman Rebecca Royval. Mrs. Wood died shortly after noon, police said.

Police are charging the motorist they say struck her with a number of offenses, alleging that 24-year-old Jeremy Lane was drunk behind the wheel of his Nissan sports car, that he ran a red light, struck Mrs. Wood, fled the scene, then called police and pretended he had been carjacked to cover his tracks.

"(The motorist) then drove to Riverview Grande Apartments off of Dallas Road where he parked his car," Officer Royval said. "He walked south on North Market Street and called police and falsely reported that he had been assaulted and carjacked at North Market and Manning Street."

Police arrived there to investigate the carjacking call, but sensed something was amiss, Officer Royval said. Officers discovered that Mr. Lane had an outstanding warrant for a separate offense, she said.

On Wednesday evening, he remained in the Hamilton County Jail on the outstanding warrant and charges of driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident and vehicular homicide, Officer Royval said.

The early morning accident and Mrs. Wood's death spread through Unum's 3,000 employees quickly and cast a shadow over what would ordinarily have been a cheerful preholiday workday.

"It's tragic to have anything like this happen at any time, but because we are so close to the Christmas holidays, I think it has taken on some added weight," said Unum spokeswoman M.C. Guenther. "Susan had worked for Unum for 12 years, so she certainly has many friends and co-workers that are hit by the news."

Unum has lobbied to close certain streets around its campus to prevent accidents in recent years, Ms. Guenther said, but Fourth Street was not a route the company had sought to close.

"This is not the normal sort of accident," Ms. Guenther said.

She said Mrs. Wood worked in Unum's individual disability claims office.

"We are a large company, but this hits us just like it's a member of our family," Ms. Guenther said.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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