KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A tow truck driver said he found a man's body in a wrecked van he towed Tuesday morning after Tennessee Highway Patroltroopers told him it was empty.

Around 2:30 a.m., R.J. McMahan of Floyd's Wrecker Services, was sent to tow a white 2006 Dodge Caravan that "had been wrecked with the airbags blowed" in South Knox County, Tenn., said Terry Floyd, owner of Floyd's Wrecker.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers working the crash told McMahan the vehicle was unoccupied and that the driver had "fled back to wherever he was coming from," McMahan said.

When McMahan returned to the lot with the van in tow, he opened the door of the vehicle to put it in park, as he had countless times over his six-year career as a towman.

That's when he saw something he said "scared the hell out of" him — a man's legs on the floorboard, protruding limply from under an airbag.

McMahan said he was in shock.

"All I seen at first was feet. It kind of tripped me out, and I had to look again to make sure I had seen what I seen."

He pushed the airbags out of the way to find a man he described as in his mid-40's. He twice felt for a pulse.

"He looked dead to me. ... He was limp. He was cold. His mouth was busted up a little bit," McMahan said, pausing for a moment. "It was not nice."

"I've worked fatality wrecks before, but it was a shock not knowing (the body) was there. If I'm pulling up on a fatality scene, I already know it's going to be a fatality scene. But opening up the car door and not expecting it, it was a shock."McMahan said he called the troopers and told them what he had found. A few minutes later, officers arrived at the lot, and removed the body from the vehicle.

"We were all really in shock that he was in there. I mean honestly you couldn't really see in the vehicle the way it was sitting and the airbags were, he was completely in the floor, so the airbags had him covered up."