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Cause unclear in fatal I-81 crash

December 28, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A West Virginia State Police trooper investigating an accident Tuesday night on Interstate 81 that involved at least three vehicles and one fatality said it is unclear why one of the cars drove off the highway, then went backward across the interstate.

Michael Diaz, 13, of Whitehall, Pa., one of five children riding in the car, was killed in the 6:05 p.m. crash, Senior Trooper C.A. Ellwanger said.

The crash occurred near an I-81 bridge that crosses U.S. 11 between the Exit 23 ramps for Falling Waters, W.Va., and Marlowe, W.Va., officials said.

The driver of the Saturn, Teresa Cordero, 35, of Allentown, Pa., was southbound on I-81 when her car went off the interstate and struck a guardrail on the east side of the highway, police said.

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Cordero's car then re-entered the interstate going backward across one of the southbound lanes when it was struck by a Dodge pickup truck and a Mitsubishi sport utility vehicle, police said.

Also, a Chevrolet Blazer hit parts of the cars or debris in the road, police said, adding that the driver of that vehicle was not injured.

The Saturn then struck a guardrail off the east side of the interstate.

Police are unclear what caused Cordero to drive her car off the interstate, said Ellwanger, who added that it has been tough to communicate with her. Ellwanger said he was able to obtain statements from three witnesses, but they offer different accounts of what occurred.

"I've got to sit back and call these people again so they can fine-tune it a little bit," Ellwanger said.

Michael Diaz was trapped in the wreckage of the Saturn, and rescue crews had to cut off the top of the car to free the boy and five others inside, Ellwanger said.

Other passengers in the car were Azhya Riddick, 14, of Allentown, Tony Cordero, 7, of Allentown, Joshua Diaz, 15, of Whitehall, and Raphael Diaz, 9, of Whitehall, Ellwanger said.

Ellwanger said he thinks all of the people in the Saturn were related.

The injuries suffered by other people did not appear to be life-threatening, Ellwanger said.

Teresa Cordero was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., and Raphael Diaz was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, but conditions for them could not be obtained Wednesday night, officials said.

Police said Joshua Diaz was taken to City Hospital in Martinsburg, but hospital officials did not have his name listed in their records Tuesday night.

Azhya Riddick was in critical condition Tuesday night at Inova Fairfax Hospital, and Tony Cordero was in fair condition there, a hospital spokesman said.

The driver of the pickup truck, Martin Akoa of Waterville, Maine, his wife Megan, their 8-month-old daughter, Bianca, and their 2-year-old son, Antoine, were treated at City Hospital and later released, Ellwanger said.

The driver of the Mitsubishi, Victoria Duvall, 46, of Hedgesville, W.Va., also was treated at City Hospital and later released, Ellwanger said.

The accident tied up southbound traffic on I-81 for more than two hours, and traffic was detoured around the scene, officials said.

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