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Man dies from mill accident

August 09, 1998|By SHEILA HOTCHKIN

SMITHSBURG - A Smithsburg man, who was injured when a steel beam from a demolition site struck him two weeks ago, died Sunday morning at Washington County Hospital.

Eddie Stoneberger's death has left the small community grieving and angry over the accident.

"I'm really upset about what happened," said Jake Keller, a friend of the family. "That was uncalled for."

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The accident occurred on the morning of July 25 as Stoneberger, 47, walked to work at Bisbee's Auctioneering, Mayor Tommy Bowers said the weekend of the accident.

As Stoneberger passed the demolition site, a steel beam hit the pavement and ricocheted, hitting him in the head, Bowers has said.

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The beam came from the one-time mill and farm store of the Chewsville Cooperative Association, which was being demolished so the nearby Smithsburg Market could move to the site.

Some local residents have claimed that the contractor, Victor C. Ditto, did not rope off the demolition area, as the mayor had told him.

"If it had been roped off, it probably never would have happened," said Stoneberger's nephew, Richard Webb. His uncle, a 35-year volunteer fireman, would have known to stay away from a cordoned-off site, Webb said.

Ditto could not be reached Sunday for comment.

No police report was filed. The town's two municipal officers were off duty at the time of the accident and it was not reported to the Maryland State Police or the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) is investigating the accident, Bowers said.

Friends and family members are still reeling from Sunday morning's blow.

Webb found out when his mother went to him crying on Sunday morning right before he left for church.

"I knew something was wrong with her when I said, 'What Mom?' and she didn't answer," he said.

His mother, Florence Webb, called him "a mighty good man and a good brother."

Keller called Stoneberger "a people's person" and said he was always ready to help anyone, friend or stranger.

"That's going to be a heartbreaker for the people in Smithsburg and for the family," he said.

Many of Webb's memories of his uncle center around him helping people. Stoneberger taught three of Webb's children about safety and how to use 911, he said.

He also remembers his uncle driving a child to his home near the Pennsylvania state line after his bicycle got a flat tire, and paying for another youth to go on carnival rides when the child did not have the money.

When Webb's father died, Stoneberger was the one who helped him through it.

Webb last saw his uncle on Thursday in the hospital, where Stoneberger had been in a coma and in critical condition for most of the two weeks between the accident and his death.

Richard Webb said he's not the type to cry in front of other people. "Right after he's buried will be when I break down," he said.

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