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Truck driver charged in fatal W.Va. crash

July 25, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

A dump truck driver who allegedly collided with several cars on W.Va. 9 east two weeks ago, killing three people, had cocaine in his system at the time of the wreck, police said Wednesday.

Berkeley County deputies charged 37-year-old Brian William Strobridge, of Thatcher Road in Martinsburg, with three felony counts of driving under the influence of cocaine, causing death.

Strobridge faces one to 10 years in prison for each count, if convicted.

Strobridge had used enough cocaine for it to "have impaired/influenced his driving," court records show.

The accident happened on July 10 on the bridge over Opequon Creek around 4:45 p.m. Strobridge, driving in the wrong lane, allegedly hit Marion Rao's Toyota Camry first. Rao, of Martinsburg, was pronounced dead at City Hospital in Martinsburg.

Strobridge then allegedly hit a red Jeep Wrangler head-on, killing both men inside. The passenger, 20-year-old Carleton Wilcox of Charles Town, W.Va., was ejected from the Jeep and pronounced dead at the scene. The body of the driver, 17-year-old Terry Lee Walker Jr. of Leetown, W.Va., was trapped in the wreckage for several hours. The Jeep was crushed beneath the empty Western dump truck.

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At the accident scene, Strobridge told Sgt. Russell Shackelford that he "could have been in the wrong lane," court records show. Witnesses said Strobridge was swerving in and out of traffic, and one woman told police she pulled off the road to avoid Strobridge just before the wreck, records show.

Six cars were hit altogether and a seventh, driven by a county bailiff, was hit by debris. Nobody else, including Strobridge, was seriously injured.

At his arraignment Wednesday afternoon before Magistrate Joan Bragg, Strobridge tried for nearly an hour to collect enough property or cash to post bond on his $300,000 bail. As of Wednesday night, he remained in the Eastern Regional Jail.

He spoke to reporters briefly.

"The charges will be seen as things are brought out in court," Strobridge said.

Strobridge said he has owned a hauling business for about two years, and has been driving a truck for about 12 years.

A small man, just 5 feet 7 inches tall and 150 pounds, according to court records, Strobridge talked and occasionally joked with the deputies present in Bragg's office.

Because he cooperated with police, officers did not put handcuffs on Strobridge, Cpl. Willie Johnson said. Strobridge turned himself in after his wife told him he was wanted by police, Johnson said.

Strobridge's wife and parents attended the arraignment. His attorney, Robert C. Stone Jr., did not attend and declined to comment when reached afterward.

Additional misdemeanor charges against Strobridge are pending, Johnson said. Strobridge submitted to substance abuse tests, which revealed cocaine. Alcohol was not present in his system, police said.

A check of magistrate court records shows one previous charge against Strobridge. In August 2000, he was cited for driving without due care or caution. The charge was dismissed after the state trooper who handled it did not appear for Strobridge's court hearing. Had he been convicted, Strobridge would have faced a maximum $100 fine.

No paperwork in that file indicated what may have prompted the allegation against Strobridge, and the trooper who issued the ticket was not available.

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