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Man killed on I-81

July 30, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An Inwood, W.Va., man died Tuesday night after he moved into the path of a car on Interstate 81 near Martinsburg, according to West Virginia State Police.

Zachary Zirk, 29, ran into the highway and struck the driver's side of a 1998 Crown Victoria driven by Charles Baldassare of Hedgesville, W.Va., police said. The 10:34 p.m. accident occurred between Exit 16 east and Exit 16 west, police said.

Police were still trying to determine on Wednesday night how Zirk ended up in the path of the car.

Baldassare said he was driving home Tuesday night from a training mission with the West Virginia Air National Guard, in which he serves as a flight medic. He said he was in the right-hand lane of traffic traveling north when he saw the shadow of a head suddenly appear in front of his windshield next to the A-frame of the driver's side door.

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"The guy appeared out of nowhere," Baldassare said.

The impact shattered his windshield, he said.

Glass shards struck Baldassare and he said he believes he momentarily blacked out because of the horrible scene he had just witnessed.

Baldassare said he immediately pulled over to the shoulder. He knew from the extent of Zirk's injuries that he was dead, he said.

At least two more vehicles ran over Zirk's body and dragged it for a short distance, police said.

Baldassare said some drivers slowed down, but did not pull over to stop.

"I thought that was a shameful statement about our society that people could slow down, but not stop to see if someone needed aid," Baldassare said.

He finally waved down one vehicle with a young couple inside. The man comforted Baldassare while the woman drove to the nearby West Virginia State Police barracks to summon help.

Baldassare said he had minor cuts from the glass. He said at one point his hands went completely numb, which he believes was the result of shock.

Baldassare said he has good peripheral vision and did not see the man coming toward his car. He said the man would have had to run from the center median strip, cross the passing lane and into the side of his car without Baldassare spotting him.

Zirk's family declined to comment Wednesday night.

Zirk was not a stranger to local police.

On Jan. 18, West Virginia State Police were called to the home of Brenda Breeden in Gerrardstown, W.Va., after Zirk appeared there. Breeden had obtained a family protection order on Dec. 29, 1997, to keep Zirk away from her, according to Berkeley County court records.

The trooper found Zirk getting in his truck to drive away from her home and charged him with violation of a family protection order and public intoxication, according to court records.

Zirk pleaded guilty to trespassing and was given a suspended sentence of 30 days in jail, according to court records.

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