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Biker dies in bridge fall

March 08, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

A man riding a motorcycle across a bridge along Allensville Road on Sunday afternoon tipped over and apparently drowned in Back Creek, a witness and West Virginia State Police said.

William Edwards Jr., 25, of Hedgesville, died in the accident, said state police Sgt. Dean Olack.

Edwards, who also went by the first name Frank, lived off U.S. 11 in the Spring Mills, W.Va., area, said Eric Lanzendorfer, a friend who was riding with Edwards at the time of the accident.

Allensville Road turns off W.Va. 901 near Hedgesville.

Lanzendorfer said he was riding an all-terrain vehicle and Edwards was riding a dirt bike-style motorcycle when the pair approached what is referred to as the "low-water bridge" over Back Creek. It is a low bridge, and water was running over the top of the structure Sunday.

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Edwards' 4-year-old son was riding on the motorcycle with him, Lanzendorfer said.

Before Edwards crossed the bridge, he took his son off the motorcycle, Lanzendorfer said. Edwards went about halfway across the bridge when his motorcycle fell over.

Edwards ended up in rough water in the creek and appeared to be caught in an undertow, Lanzendorfer said.

Edwards was pulling himself up out of the water, gasping and then going back down.

Lanzendorfer said he approached Edwards in an attempt to help him and got within about eight feet of him in the water. Lanzendorfer said he had to get out of the creek because the current was too strong.

"It started sucking me in. I knew if I stayed there, I would drown, too," said Lanzendorfer, 22.

Lanzendorfer said he did not see Edwards again, and he and a bystander ran downstream along the creek looking for him.

A woman who showed up at the scene stayed with Edwards' boy, Lanzendorfer said.

Rescue officials, including Trooper C.A. Ellwanger, arrived and began searching for Edwards from the creek bank. A Maryland State Police helicopter hovered overhead searching.

Edwards' body was found at 4:28 p.m. about 200 yards downstream where a smaller stream feeds into Back Creek, said Olack and another official at the scene.

Due to the muddy, rough water, rescue officials could not find Edwards' motorcycle. They plan to return to the scene today to look for it, Olack said.

Lanzendorfer said he met Edwards about four months ago while the two were working at Firestone in Hagerstown. Lanzendorfer said he and Edwards enjoyed riding all-terrain vehicles together and Edwards wanted to take him on a ride along Allensville Road on Sunday.

The low-water bridge, which has existed for years, was constructed by laying pipes in the bed of the creek then pouring concrete on top of them, said Danny Clark, state Division of Highways supervisor for Berkeley County.

Water runs over the top of the bridge about 80 percent of the time, Clark said.

Due to water that has been running over the bridge since about November, the Division of Highways placed concrete barriers at the entrances to the bridge in an attempt to keep motorists from crossing it, Clark said.

People either hooked chains up to the barriers and pulled them out or they pushed them out of the way with their vehicles, Clark said.

Although the bridge was open Sunday, there were signs posted in the area warning motorists not to cross it, Clark said.

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