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Man killed in Interstate 81 crash in W.Va.

August 24, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A 54-year-old Elkhart, Texas, man was charged with negligent homicide, illegal passing and reckless driving after a two-vehicle accident early Wednesday on Interstate 81 in Berkeley County left a man dead, court records show.

Earl Elton Smedley, 31, of Stephens City, Va., was pronounced dead at the scene about one mile north of the Virginia state line.

Smedley was thrown from the Jeep Wrangler he was driving north on I-81, according to West Virginia State Police Trooper C.A. Ellwanger.

Russell Lynn Brewer was arraigned by Magistrate Sandra L. Miller, who set a $110,100 bond. Brewer was being held Wednesday night at Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg.

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Ellwanger was dispatched to the accident at 5:21 a.m.

Police said they determined through accident reconstruction that a rear tire on the flatbed trailer Brewer was hauling "clipped" the Jeep while Brewer was changing lanes in an attempt to pass.

The contact caused Smedley to apparently lose control of the Jeep, which traveled into the median and overturned several times, police said.

In a written statement, one witness told police he observed the tractor-trailer "run the center line" near the 1-mile marker and was driving behind the Jeep. The witness said the tractor-trailer driver (Brewer) attempted to signal the Jeep by flashing the vehicle's high beams, police said.

The second witness told police the tractor-trailer had passed him about 8 miles south of the accident scene in Virginia and recounted how Brewer was supposedly trying to get around two vehicles that had "blocked" him.

The witness "advised that he observed the flatbed straddle the white line and turn its flashers on," Ellwanger said.

Police determined that Smedley was traveling in the left lane when Brewer passed the Jeep traveling in the right lane.

When Brewer attempted to change to the left lane, the trailer wheel struck the Jeep, police said.

Brewer was not injured, police said.

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