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Head-on collision results from wrong-way driver

January 14, 2001

Head-on collision results from wrong-way driver



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Despite efforts by West Virginia State Police to warn motorists, a man traveling the wrong way on Interstate 81 early Sunday morning struck another car head-on, leaving the driver of the second car in critical condition, police said.

West Virginia State Police Senior Trooper T.C. Kearns said he was operating a radar for speeding motorists on Interstate 81 near the Inwood exit when a car passed him traveling north in the southbound lane.

After spotting the car at 1:27 a.m., Kearns activated his siren and lights in attempt to stop the car. The driver continued up the interstate.

Troopers did not chase the car, but instead followed it up I-81 with their emergency lights on, Kearns said.

Officers hoped that oncoming traffic would see the emergency lights and slow down and not be struck by the oncoming car, Kearns said.

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At one point, police were also considering shutting down the southbound lanes of the interstate until the motorist could be stopped, Kearns said.

"However, the accident occurred before someone could do that," Kearns said.

Near the Tabler Station Road exit, the motorist, who was driving a gray Oldsmobile, struck a Chevrolet car, Kearns said.

The driver of the Oldsmobile was identified as Juan M. Paniaguas, 23, of Martinsburg, W.Va. Kearns said. The driver of the Chevrolet was identified as Mirsad Mehic, 47, of Stephens City, Va., Kearns said.

Paniaguas was treated and released from City Hospital. Paniaguas was charged with fleeing driving under the influence, fleeing with injury, driving under the influence with injury, no operator's license and driving the wrong way on the interstate, Kearns said. Paniaguas is currently being held in the Eastern Regional Jail, Kearns said.

Maryland State Police flew Mehic from the scene to Washington County Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition Sunday night, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

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