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Bill named for accident victims introduced

March 04, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Marion Rao, Terry Walker and Carleton Wilcox died on a hot July day in 2002, when a large dump truck crossed the center line on W.Va. 9 and collided head-on with six cars.

On Wednesday, a bill informally known as the Rao-Walker-Wilcox bill was introduced in the West Virginia Legislature. Named after those who died, House Bill No. 2594 would require that anyone involved in a wreck that leads to death or injury submit a blood sample for testing.

The test would determine whether drugs or alcohol were present in the person's system at the time of the wreck.

That bill was sponsored and introduced on Feb. 23 by seven legislators, including Dels. John Overington, Craig Blair, Vic Roberts and Walter Duke, all Berkeley County Republicans.

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A second bill, House Bill No. 2832, that contains similar language was introduced on Wednesday by House of Delegates Speaker Bob Kiss.

Both bills are pending.

Overington said he could not speculate on the chances of the bill passing since members of the Judiciary Committee - the next stop for the bill - are typically asked to consider around 500 bills during a session. Overington has asked that it be placed on the committee's agenda for discussion.

Walker's mother, Margaret Walker, spoke to state legislators at interim meetings in Shepherdstown, W.Va., last October.

"I've been talking to anybody who has some ears to listen," she said.

One legislator seemed surprised. "He asked me, we don't already have this as a law?" Walker said.

Rao, 51, of Martinsburg; Walker, 17, of Leetown, W.Va.; and Wilcox, 20, of Charles Town, W.Va., were killed when a dump truck driven by Brian W. Strobridge, of Martinsburg, crossed the center line on July 10, 2002. Two others were injured.

In May 2004, a jury found Strobridge guilty of three felony counts of DUI causing death, two counts of DUI causing injury and misdemeanor counts of driving left of center, reckless driving and failure to drive in a single lane.

He was found guilty even though no blood test showing he had cocaine in his system existed .

"I think there's a gap in the law that we have," Overington said. "Drug use is becoming more of a problem and we have not addressed that."

If the bill passes it would ensure that a procedure is implemented with police and at hospitals for such drivers.

"This would allow (blood samples) to be tracked and kept," he said.

Overington complimented Margaret Walker's actions.

"She's done a great job of doing all she can to help, to have some kind of action taken," he said.

Scholarships and golfing

Along with lobbying for the bill, Walker has taken on other tasks to try to keep her only child's memory alive.

This is the third year a golf tournament will be held, with proceeds used to distribute scholarships in Terry Walker's memory.

Walker said she hopes to receive more applicants for the $1,000 scholarships.

Applicants must live in either Jefferson or Berkeley counties. The deadline to apply is April 8.

Scholarship applications may be obtained at any high school in the counties. Students who attend private schools or who are home-schooled also may apply.

To be awarded a scholarship, applicants must have been accepted and be committed to attending Shepherd University.

Walker was taking summer courses at Shepherd College when he died. He was killed two weeks after starting the courses.

Last year, Walker and her husband were able to give one scholarship to a student from Berkeley County and another to a student from Jefferson County.

She hopes to do the same this year, and more in the future.

"We're hoping to expand but I have to raise enough money to expand," Walker said.

The third annual golf tournament will be July 11 at Stonebridge Golf Club outside of Martinsburg.

Walker is a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She speaks to DUI offenders, telling them what happened to her son and encouraging them not to drive if they've been drinking.

"I'm just bound and determined to do the best I can from this awful situation," she said.

Anyone interested in sponsoring the golf tournament, or who would be willing to help create a Web site for it, can contact Walker at 304-725-2219.

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