Two women, one racehorse injured in Interstate 81 accidents

December 11, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |

FALLING WATERS, W.Va. — Two women were taken to City Hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries and a racehorse had superficial cuts Saturday after chain-reaction accidents on southbound Interstate 81, a fire official said.

The accidents involving two tractor-trailers and a horse and trailer occurred near the Falling Waters exit about 7 p.m., according to dispatchers and Lt. R.L. Gardner of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department. A total of five vehicles were involved, Gardner said.

Southbound I-81 was closed for at least 3 1/2 hours after the accidents and southbound traffic was backed up into Maryland, according to Lt. Kevin Sottile of the Bedington Volunteer Fire Department and other officials.

The five-vehicle crash occurred when a woman looked down to adjust a heater in her car, Gardner said. The woman then looked up and struck a tractor-trailer. That caused other traffic to suddenly stop and resulted in the other collisions, Gardner said.

The horse trailer, containing one horse, was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, he said.

The recently purchased horse was being taken from Pennsylvania to Hollywood Casino at Charles Town (W.Va.) Races, Sottile said. Other than the superficial cuts and being skittish, the horse was fine, he said.

Emergency officials called a Martinsburg, W.Va., horse rancher to bring his horse trailer to the accident scene and transport the animal to the racetrack, which has a veterinary staff, Sottile said.

It took two tow trucks to separate the damaged horse trailer from the tractor-trailer, Sottile said. The tractor-trailer’s steering axle was broken in the accident, he said.

Sottile said firefighters were called back to the scene for additional accidents.

Some southbound drivers tried to make illegal U-turns in the median and got stuck there, he said.

While northbound drivers were slowing down to check out the accidents on the southbound side of the interstate, a rear-end collision occurred in the northbound lanes involving a Jeep and a minivan, Sottile said. No one required medical transport from that accident, he said.

Sottile said many drivers are not adhering to Maryland and West Virginia state laws to slow down and yield to emergency vehicles.

Sottile said if his unit is called to the interstate for an incident, “I automatically shut down the interstate because I’m not getting myself and my guys and the medical crew or anybody injured from people not paying (attention).”

— Staff writer Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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