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Veteran trooper critical after crash

May 31, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

A West Virginia State Police trooper was seriously injured Wednesday night when his cruiser was involved in an accident with a sport utility vehicle driven by a motorist who fled the scene, state police said Thursday.

Sgt. Scott E. Paugh was on his way home to Martinsburg from the Charles Town barracks at about 10:50 p.m. when a 1995 Nissan Pathfinder struck his cruiser in the left front corner on Golf Course Road near Martinsburg, state police alleged.

Police said they believe the Pathfinder went left of center and struck Paugh's cruiser.

Police said the driver of the Pathfinder fled the scene on foot and left Paugh trapped in the cruiser.

No one saw the crash and it was about 10 minutes before it was reported, said state police 1st Sgt. Deke Walker.

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A nearby resident heard the collision and walked to the scene of the crash, Walker said. Paugh was conscious when the person walked up to the cruiser, Walker said.

"He was trapped and he was asking for assistance," Walker said.

It took emergency crews about 30 minutes to free Paugh from the wreckage, Walker said.

Paugh was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia, where he was listed in critical condition Thursday afternoon, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Paugh, whose head, left arm and left leg were injured in the accident, underwent surgery Thursday afternoon, Walker said.

"The doctors are very optimistic," said Walker.

Golf Course Road is one of several back roads that can be used to travel between Jefferson County and Berkeley County. It runs into East Burke Street at the east end of Martinsburg. Paugh often took back roads to get home, Walker said.

A police dog unit from the Martinsburg Police Department was taken to the accident scene in an attempt to track the person who was driving the Pathfinder. Those efforts were unsuccessful, according to a press release from state police.

Police found in the SUV a temporary registration that listed the name of the person who bought the vehicle, said Walker. Walker would not name that person, noting that it was unclear whether that person was the driver.

The accident shocked friends and co-workers of Paugh, a 12-year veteran of the state police.

Friends and co-workers described Paugh as a friendly, professional member of the department.

"He's almost a model trooper, I guess you could say," Walker said.

Berkeley County Magistrate Joan Bragg said she vividly remembers when Paugh arrived for duty in the Eastern Panhandle. The way Paugh handled himself made it clear he demonstrated everything an officer should be, Bragg said.

"I would say he's highly looked up to by the officers around here. It's a shame it happened," said Lt. R.J. James of the Charles Town Police Department.

Paugh and his wife, who live in Martinsburg, recently had a daughter.

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