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Wrong-way drive results in W.Va. crash

April 14, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Three people were injured Monday when a Martinsburg man drove his pickup truck the wrong way on Interstate 81 and collided with a northbound Subaru, according to West Virginia State Police.

The 2:08 p.m. accident blocked both northbound lanes for about 40 minutes and backed up traffic for 3 1/2 miles as rescue crews worked to free a Sunbury, Pa., couple in the Subaru and clear the pickup truck from the road.

Rose Wheeland, 59, a passenger in the Subaru, was flown to Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va. She was listed in critical condition Monday night, according to a hospital spokesman. Her husband, Seth Wheeland, 63, the driver of the car, was treated at Martinsburg City Hospital and released.

The driver of the pickup truck, Orval M. Kesecker, 87, of Beacon Drive, Martinsburg, was admitted to City Hospital in Martinsburg and was being evaluated Monday night.

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Police said Kesecker drove a 1989 Dodge pickup truck onto the Exit 13 off-ramp at King Street, believing it was the access ramp to I-81 south.

Once on the interstate, he turned into the lane on his right, believing the lane to his left was the passing lane of southbound Interstate 81, police said.

"He did what he thought he was supposed to do," said Trooper Jack Folk. "He moved to the right, which would be normal on a normal roadway. When he did, it just happened that the Wheeland vehicle was also in that lane coming in the opposite direction."

Kesecker drove the southbound pickup truck about a tenth of a mile before it collided with the northbound Wheeland car.

"When I initially talked to (Kesecker) he thought it was their fault," Folk said.

Police had received a call about a truck heading in the wrong direction on I-81 just moments before the crash, Folk said. The accident occurred while police were en route.

The impact spun the truck across both lanes of traffic and pushed the Subaru into the median.

The Wheelands were trapped until rescue workers got them out by prying open the driver's side door and sawing off the front and back passenger side doors, officials said.

Seth Wheeland was freed less than 10 minutes after the crash. Rose Wheeland was trapped for about 30 minutes.

"We had a little bit more to do on her side," said Lt. Brinton Byers of the Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department. "She had most of the impact and her side was a little worse."

Kesecker was charged with failure to obey a traffic control device, which can be a traffic light, stop sign or do-not-enter sign, Folk said.

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