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Stepmom: death can send a message

October 21, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

The stepmother of a Hagerstown area man who died early Friday in a car accident in Berkeley County, W.Va., pleaded Saturday for others not to speed.

Anthony "Tony" Luciano Bracaloni, 23, of Kelly's Lane east of Hagerstown, died at the scene after the car he was driving ran off the road and hit two large pine trees, West Virginia State Police said. The impact cut one of the trees in half, police said.

Bracaloni's passenger, Clay Witmer of the Boonsboro area, was in critical condition at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., on Saturday, a hospital spokeswoman said. Witmer was taken to City Hospital in Martinsburg and then flown to Inova Fairfax, police said.

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"He wants everybody to know that speeding kills and it rips your parents' hearts out when you do something like that," said Lorrie Bracaloni, who raised Bracaloni since he was a baby. His mother, Rhonda Williams, lives in San Diego.

Lorrie Bracaloni, of Boonsboro, said she could feel her stepson's presence Saturday morning.

"That's the message that he sent," she said.

"The tree always wins," Bracaloni said. "Just tell everybody speed kills and it doesn't help your parents."

Speeding, alcohol and a blown tire were factors in the accident, which occurred around 2 a.m. on W.Va. 9 near the Jefferson County line, Trooper Nathan Harmon said.

That two-lane stretch of W.Va. 9 has a 45 mph speed limit, he said.

"He was going well above the speed limit," Harmon said.

The accident is still under investigation.

The eastbound car went about 300 feet off the pavement into a group of pine trees shielding a residence from the highway, Harmon said.

Harmon was on his way to another call when he spotted what appeared to be tail lights in the tree line. Not knowing whether it was an accident or a car in a driveway behind the tree line, Harmon said he continued to the other accident scene about 500 feet away near the Comfort Suites.

When Harmon arrived and saw an IRS officer and a Berkeley County Sheriff's Department officer there, he told them he was going back to check the tree line to see if there had been another accident.

It was immediately apparent that the driver was dead, but Harmon said there didn't appear to be anyone else in the car.

Startling discovery

The car had continued through the first tree into the second tree. The driver's side of the car wrapped around the second tree, Harmon said.

When emergency services crews and a tow truck arrived a few minutes later, the tow truck turned the car back on its wheels, he said.

After the car was upright Harmon saw a black leather jacket inside moving up and down as if someone was breathing, he said.

Rescue workers used the jaws of life to cut off the car door so they could get out Witmer. The roof had been pushed down into the front seats by the fallen tree, Harmon said.

Harmon said he doesn't believe Witmer was wearing his seat belt. Witmer had slid down in his seat so his lower body was in the floorboard area and his upper body was pinned against the bottom of the seat by the car roof, Harmon said.

Witmer's pelvis and right femur were injured, Harmon said. He was unconscious when he was found.

Bracaloni and Witmer, who is a year younger, have been good friends since they attended Boonsboro High School, the Bracaloni family said. Bracaloni graduated in 1997.

Lorrie Bracaloni and Bracaloni's older brother, Shawn, 26, said Bracaloni loved girls and loved to work on cars, dirt bikes, motorcycles and 4-wheelers.

Bracaloni was a technician at Crown Ford in Chambersburg, Pa., and before that worked at Middletown Ford in Middletown, Md., the family said.

"He loved to help my dad out," Shawn Bracaloni said.

He helped his father, Umberto Bracaloni, fix his pickup truck, Lorrie Bracaloni said. "He was his dad's best bud," she said.

"He was always real full of life. Always happy," Shawn Bracaloni said. His brother loved to dance to hip-hop music and liked NASCAR.

Bracaloni used to go to Summit Point Raceway in Jefferson County to watch races with his father and had drag raced against Witmer at Mason-Dixon Dragway east of Hagerstown, family members said.

Hard worker

He dreamed of one day owning his own home so he worked hard to pay off his bills, Lorrie Bracaloni said.

"He was a very hard worker. He'd work his fingers to the bone" more than 60 hours a week, his stepmother said.

Bracaloni often helped the family, such as the time he hauled the horse trailer back home after his sister, Natasha, rode a horse to her high school graduation in 2000.

Lorrie Bracaloni said her stepson didn't drink much and she didn't believe he was drinking Thursday night. She also said the family checked the car, which she said was a black Honda on which Bracaloni had worked, and all four tires were intact. She learned later in the day that an axle had broken.

Harmon said he thought a tire had blown because there were large gouges in the pavement. The police reported the car as a black Nissan.

Harmon estimated the car wrecked between the time he got the call for the other accident at approximately 2:10 a.m. and the time he got there a few minutes later. Harmon said there's enough traffic along that road that someone would have noticed the tail lights rather quickly after the accident happened.

The family asked that memorial donations be made to the Washington County Humane Society because Bracaloni loved animals, his stepmother said. Besides having dogs and a horse when he was a child, he had two cats, she said.

Staff writer Tara Reilly contributed to this story.

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