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Two killed in W.Va. crashes during snow squall

January 16, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION and MATTHEW UMSTEAD

A snow squall that skipped across parts of West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle on Tuesday morning spawned a number of car accidents, including a four-vehicle pileup on U.S. 340 that involved a charter bus, and two fatal accidents south of Martinsburg, W.Va., police said.

In Berkeley County, a 57-year-old Chambersburg, Pa., man died at the scene of an eight-vehicle collision on Interstate 81, and a 67-year-old Gerrardstown, W.Va., man died in a one-vehicle acciddnts on Apple Harvest Drive within minutes of each other, according to West Virginia State Police.

Daniel G. Snyder was pronounced dead at the scene of the I-81 accident, which involved the 1999 Jaguar he was driving, four tractor-trailers, another passenger vehicle, a school bus and an Aramark box truck in the southbound lanes at the 7-mile marker about 10:44 a.m., police said.

A woman injured in the I-81 crash was taken to City Hospital in Martinsburg for treatment, but no one else was injured, police said.

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About 30 minutes after the pileup, Robert N. Bruffey was killed when he crashed his Chevrolet Tracker on Apple Harvest Drive into a tree after it left the snow-covered road, police said.

Bruffey was pronounced dead at 11:16 a.m. by emergency personnel at the accident site, about two-tenths of a mile north of Barlow Drive, according to 1st Sgt. E.D. Burnett and Sean McCarthy, a medical examiner for Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Bruffey was southbound when the 2003 Tracker traveled off the east side of the road, police said. State Police Trooper M.D. Gillmore's investigation included weather and road conditions as possible factors for the accident, Burnett said.

Police believe Snyder's Jaguar struck one of the tractor-trailers from behind and he lost control of the vehicle, police said. The Jaguar was struck by the Aramark truck, which pushed the man's car off the east side of the interstate, Burnett said.

Trooper P.S. Kennedy, who investigated the I-81 crash, said weather was a factor in the crash.

"While doing this, the Aramark truck also struck the rear driver's side of the school bus," Burnett said.

The bus driver and six passengers - four Musselman High School students and two aides - were returning to school from a work program, said Jaimee Borger, director of communications for Berkeley County Schools.

Both accidents remained under investigation, officials said.

The brief, but strong snowfall took area residents by surprise as it coated roads, sidewalks and cars. It hit areas including Charles Town, Harpers Ferry and the Martinsburg area, but skipped towns including Shepherdstown and Hagerstown.

"The roads were really bad," Charles Town Police officer Alissa Jenkins said.

About 11:08 a.m., a southbound tour bus carrying 14 passengers to Charles Town Races & Slots approached traffic that was stopped at a traffic light near Wal-Mart when it collided with a Chevrolet Cavalier, Jenkins said. The Cavalier was pushed into a Pontiac, which was pushed into a Toyota Corolla, Jenkins said.

The only person injured was a woman in the Cavalier, and her injuries were not life-threatening, Jenkins said. The bus, driven by Eddie Gammon Winbush, 61, of Suitland, Md., came to rest on a slight embankment, according to Jenkins and rescue officials.

Although people might consider a snow squall a late winter or early spring event, they can happen anytime, said Calvin Meadows, a meteorological technician for the National Weather Service.

Tuesday's snow squall occurred after cold air filtered into the area following a frontal system that went through the region Monday, Meadows said.

Snow measured about a half-inch in Charles Town; a reading was not available for Martinsburg. Back Creek Valley Volunteer Fire Chief Daniel Petry said about 1 1/2 inches fell in southwest Berkeley County.

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