Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 8, 2014

Experts reconstruct fatal wreck

BRUSHFORK — A team of crash reconstruction experts from the West Virginia State Police traveled to Mercer County Friday to aid in the investigation of the three-vehicle wreck that occurred on U.S. Route 52, in Brushfork, in front of the Deliverance Temple Church. Two young girls — one 19 month old and the other 4 years old — died as a result of injuries received in the crash.

Mercer County Sheriff D.B. “Don” Meadows said that responding to a crash when young children are fatally injured is “the hardest thing we have to do.” He said that investigators are taking a cautious and methodical approach to the investigation.

“We have examined the black box in the 2000 Chevy Corsica that the two babies were in,” Meadows said. “It’s really a silver box, but they call it a black box.” He said that newer model vehicles have more precise information, but he added that the reconstructionists know their work. “We think we’ll get enough information on the wreck.”

Meadows said that both the 2000 Chevrolet Corsica that was driven by Terri A. Wright, (also known as Tara Blankenship) 28, of Glen Lyn, Va., as well as the 2009 Toyota Rav Four that was driven by Jackson Carter, 40, of Princeton, were traveling north on U.S. Route 52, while the third vehicle involved — a 1994 Ford Ranger driven by Harold Brown, age unavailable, of Bramwell — was traveling southbound on U.S. Route 52. “It’s one accident, but it is really two wrecks,” Meadows said.

Meadows said that Lt. J.E. “Joe” Parks has interviewed the drivers involved in the Wednesday night wreck as well as other witnesses. They have also reviewed video from the church. “We don’t know everything about this wreck at this point, but we’re going to know,” he said. “These guys (on the crash recreation team) know their work. They’ll give us a report that will satisfy us,” Meadows said.

Meadows and Parks worked with the state police wreck reconstruction team for nine hours on Friday. “We checked the cars and we checked the site,” Meadows said.

Parks said that Wright, (Blankenship), the driver of the vehicle in which the two girls were passengers, remains in guarded condition in the intensive care unit of Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Parks said that Wright suffered multiple physical internal injuries in the crash, “and a broken heart,” Parks said, making reference to the emotional scars. Parks has been working almost around the clock to investigate the wreck that occurred at 6:50 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

“The death of these two children, the injuries that were sustained and the impact on the affected families deserves the best efforts that law enforcement can provide,” Parks stated in a press release issued early Friday morning. “The community should keep these families in their prayers.”

Prior to the arrival of the crash reconstruction team, a group of more than a half-dozen local residents had gathered near the place about 25-30 feet off the west side of the highway surface where the Wright vehicle stopped. The site was on a low knoll and is marked by shattered windshield glass and at least two latex gloves.

“We, as a community, would like all of the families who were impacted by this tragedy to know that they are in our prayers and our concerns,” Ann Poe, a 35-year Brushfork resident said. “That is coming from our hearts. This goes out to everyone who has been affected by this terrible wreck. There are people out there who are hurt by this. We want them to know they are in our prayers and concerns.”

In addition to sharing her prayers, Poe shared her thoughts on U.S. Route 52 in Brushfork. She pointed out that the speed limit in Bluewell is 35 miles-per-hour, but it changes to 45 miles-per-hour after motorists enter Brushfork. “It drops back to 35 miles-per-hour at the top of the hill at the International Harvester place,” Poe said.

In addition to the speed limit, Poe said she has contacted a local state delegate as well as the Division of Highways to express her thoughts that traffic needs to be warned to slow down on its approach to Perdue Hollow Road. “If someone is turning left on to Perdue Hollow Road and needs to stop for oncoming traffic, it can back up quickly,” Poe said. “Traffic coming down Route 52 can’t see that other cars are stopped in front of them until they top that hill above the church.”

Poe said she has contacted the DOH by telephone and a state delegate in person to discuss her concerns. “It’s really slow in here today,” Poe said. She added that the traffic has probably been slower due to the recent news coverage.

Michelle Cleary said that she heard the crash and when she came to see what had happened, the Chevrolet Corsica was still running. “My youngest daughter had just crossed the road to go to church,” Cleary said. “We had just got to the fence when it happened.

“This is a busy place with the church and the businesses in the area,” Cleary said. “There needs to be some kind of caution lights in the areas where there is traffic congestion.”

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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