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Three injured in five-vehicle pileup in W.Va.

May 05, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

INWOOD, W.VA.-Three people were injured, including a man who was run over by another vehicle, in a five-vehicle pileup on Friday morning that closed W.Va. 51 for more than seven hours at the Berkeley-Jefferson county line and Opequon Creek bridge, police said.

William Silks, 33, of Hedgesville, W.Va., sustained fractures to a leg and arm, and was flown to Winchester (Va.) Medical Center, Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy Cpl. D.C. Tabler said.

Silks' condition was not available Friday night.

Andres Gonzales, 36, of Alexandria, Va., was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., Tabler said.

His condition also was not immediately available Friday night, but an emergency responder said Gonzales collapsed after getting out of the dump truck he was driving.

Debbie Lancaster, 46, of Kearneysville, W.Va., was treated for minor injuries, Tabler said.

Ella Capozio, 51, of Bunker Hill, W.Va., was cited for stopping in a traffic lane, but was uninjured after allegedly causing the first of two collisions just before 8 a.m., Tabler said.

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Capozio was eastbound on W.Va. 51 in a blue Chevrolet Cavalier when she saw her boyfriend walking west along the road and stopped the car, Tabler said. Capozio's vehicle was rear-ended by a DirecTV van, which then was rear-ended by a tree service utility truck driven by Silks, Tabler said.

Silks, who was not injured when his truck crashed, got out of his vehicle to assess the damage and was in the westbound lane of W.Va. 51 when a green Kia Sedona driven by Lancaster approached the accident scene, Tabler said.

Upon realizing an accident had happened, Tabler said Lancaster turned on her four-way hazard lights and slowed down. But a red Volvo dump truck pulling a trailer loaded with two pieces of heavy equipment apparently didn't slow down in time, rear-ending the Kia, which was forced into Silks, running him over, Tabler said.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further collisions, Gonzales swerved left, taking the full-size truck through the guardrail, over one end the bridge and down to the bottom of a steep embankment, Tabler said.

One of the truck's fuel tanks ruptured and fuel soaked into the ground, but did not go into the creek, Independent Fire Co. Chief Ed Smith said. Berkeley County's Hazmat team was able to salvage about 20 gallons of fuel from another tank, Smith said.

Gonzales was not cited by Tabler, but the deputy said the West Virginia Public Service Commission was investigating the driver's actions.

Officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection were at the scene to assess what needed to be done to remove the tainted soil, Smith said.

Smith said state Division of Highways officials concluded the bridge did not sustain any structural damage, but now have to replace between 10 and 15 feet of guardrail.

Attempts to reopen the highway to traffic were complicated by the fact that the dump truck and trailer remained connected even after the accident and the brakes still were locked on the truck, said Deputy Cpl. R.S. Sell, who reconstructed the accident scene for Tabler.

Assisted by Courtney & Sons Towing of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Sell said crews had to stabilize both the truck and trailer while they were pinched against the bridge before cutting the hitch that connected them together.

The road was reopened by 3:30 p.m., Tabler said.

Motorists had been detoured at Leetown Road and Three Run Road and forced to take alternate routes, including Sulphur Springs Road, Tabler said.

Smith said personnel with the Jefferson County Ambulance Authority and Citizens Fire Co. also responded to the accident scene.

Tabler said it was not immediately clear why Capozio's boyfriend was walking along the road.

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