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Truck driver involved in chase facing numerous charges in three states

Thomas L. McNeel, of Pontotoc, Miss., was being held Tuesday in Franklin County Jail on $250,000 bond

December 21, 2010|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

A Mississippi truck driver who led police on a three-state chase Monday morning that miraculously ended without injury faces a stack of criminal and traffic offenses in West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Thomas L. McNeel, 42, of Pontotoc, Miss., was being held Tuesday in Franklin County Jail on $250,000 bond, a jail spokeswoman said.

He was charged in Pennsylvania with fleeing or attempting to elude police, intent to possess a contraband substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under the influence of a controlled substance, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, reckless driving, careless driving and traffic offenses, court records said.

McNeel was scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 28, in Franklin County Central Court, according to court records.

Meanwhile, Maryland State Police charged McNeel with four counts each of first- and second-degree assault; two counts of failure to stop after an accident involving an attended vehicle or property; fleeing and eluding police, negligent driving and careless driving, according to the Washington County District Commissioners Office.

McNeel also was being held on a detainer from Washington County, according to Franklin County Jail records.

McNeel was charged in West Virginia Tuesday with two felonies, including reckless indifference to safety or property while fleeing and fleeing while driving under the influence, said Sgt. Dan Steerman of the Berkeley County (W.Va.) Sheriff's Department.

At least two vehicles were forced off the road in West Virginia during the pursuit, and investigators were to meet with another driver whose vehicle might have been damaged, Steerman said.

Despite the trail of accidents and four more vehicles being hit in Maryland, no injuries were reported, authorities in those states and Pennsylvania said.

Dispatchers in Berkeley County received their first call of a tractor-trailer being operated erratically on northbound Interstate 81 at 8:22 a.m. After the truck rolled into Washington County, "stop sticks" were used to deflate some of the tires on the rig, which ended up running on its front rims, said Sheriff Douglas Mullendore, who took part in the chase.

The tractor-trailer swerved at any police vehicle that approached it, Mullendore said Monday.

Steerman said Monday that McNeel tried to hit his cruiser and described the chase as an "extremely scary and dangerous situation."

"I was standing on the shoulder preparing to throw out the stop sticks when he plowed into the those vehicles," Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Josh McCauley said Tuesday.

The tractor-trailer pushed one vehicle into another and then went onto the shoulder toward McCauley before going back onto the road and hitting two more vehicles.

"I didn't stand there. I took off," McCauley said.

 He said did not think McNeel was aiming for him, but had lost control after hitting the cars.

The tractor-trailer, which slowed to about 35 mph after its tires were flattened, crashed in the median near Exit 5 at Greencastle, Pa., a few minutes after 9 a.m.

Pennsylvania state troopers used a Taser and a police dog to get McNeel out of the cab.

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