Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 19, 2014

Fatal crash claims one; Home on Lorton Lick Road damaged in accident

BLUEWELL — Billy Joe Graham looked through debris scattered around his front yard on a cold and rainy Tuesday morning. His property, located alongside heavily traveled Lorton Lick Road, was the site of a deadly car crash hours before.

Lt. Joe Parks, with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, said excessive speed was a factor in the single-vehicle crash, which occurred Monday night one mile down Lorton Lick Road. The vehicle’s driver, Kevin E. Brooks, 25, of Jenkinjones, was killed at the crash scene.

 A passenger, Steven Neace, 22, of Lebanon, Tenn., was transported to a Charleston hospital and was listed in critical condition Tuesday afternoon, Parks stated.

Parks said the vehicle, a white 2013 Hyundai Elantra, was traveling toward Montcalm when it came into a curve at a high rate of speed. “It came around the curve sideways,” he said. The vehicle then went off the road, “slammed through a telephone pole, hit a brick wall and rolled toward a house. While rolling, the vehicle struck the porch, and took the entire porch off. It also damaged a vehicle parked at the house.”

Parks said a witness at the scene “narrowly avoided the crash,” and watched it unfold in his rearview mirror.

Graham, who lives at the residence with his fiancé, Tammy Jones, and her children Kateland Dye, 15, and Thomas Dye, 14, said the crash was frightening. “It was scary. I woke up wondering what the noise was.”

The crash occurred at 11:25 p.m., Graham said, noting, “The clock stopped working when it hit the wall.”

The porch was destroyed, but there was no damage to the inside of the house. The force of the crash “slung a door open on a cabinet,” Graham said.

Surveying the damage, Graham and the teens pointed out where the piece of sheared telephone pole came to rest alongside the family’s garage several feet from the utility line. Graham and a nearby resident lost electricity.

Parks said excessive speed was a factor in the crash, and that Brooks was talking on his cell phone at the time the accident occurred. Neither of the men were wearing seat belts, he said, but vehicle’s airbags did deploy. The body was sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office as part of the investigation.

During a press conference Tuesday, Parks said there have been more patrols along Route 52 between the Brushfork area and Bluewell since a recent grant from the West Virginia’s Safe and Sober program allowed deputies and the West Virginia State Police to conduct more patrols.

Deputies alone have been writing up to 20 tickets a day for speeding, using a cell phone while driving, and other infractions. Mistakes like speeding, added with inattention, can lead to tragedy, Parks added.

Concern about speeding and other reckless behavior along the Route 52 area in Mercer County increased after two children were killed in a crash March 5 near the Deliverance Temple in Brushfork. The circumstances of that crash are still under investigation, Parks said.

Graham said speeding vehicles are a common problem on Lorton Lick Road.

“They fly up and down through here,” he said. “They have no respect for the kids when they’re walking to the bus stop, no respect for the school buses, and no respect for themselves.”

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