Thursdsay afternoon, residents in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle reported seeing a tornado track southeastward apparently passing through the counties of Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson.
One motorist, Jason Unger, snapped a photo of what appeared to be the tornado near Exit 16 of Interstate 81 in Martinsburg.
Shortly prior to this time, West Virginia State Police were dispatched to a multi-vehicle traffic collision which occurred on Interstate 81 near the 17.5 mile marker, southbound.
Upon arrival, troopers were able to determine that fourteen passenger vehicles and two tractor-trailers were involved in the collision.
Sadly, Trooper M.D. Gillmore, the responding officer, was made aware that a male driver was killed in the accident – 24-year-old Caleb David Conner of Falling Waters, West Virginia.
According to a press release from the West Virginia State Police, troopers were able to determine from driver and witness statements that a 2002 Acura, driven by Amid Hafley of Martinsburg, was traveling southbound on I-81 “recklessly and collided with the side of a tractor-trailer which caused Hafley’s vehicle to spin out of control in the travel lane of the interstate. Vehicles then began to reduce speed to avoid the collision with Mr. Hafley’s vehicle which caused further collisions which resulted in the death of Mr. Conner.”
The news release went on to state, “Upon further investigation, Mr. Hafley was placed under arrest for Driving Under the Influence of a controlled substance and DUI causing death.”
Interstate 81 southbound was shutdown from the 20 mile marker for approximately 4.5 hours while the investigation was conducted and vehicles were removed from the scene.
In total, thirteen people were transported from the scene to Berkeley Medical Center or Meritus Hospital in Hagerstown, Maryland due to injuries; none were life threatening.
Complicating the entire situation was the threat of severe weather, including a tornado which passed through the area moments following the car accident.
Christina Hambright, who was involved in the multi-vehicle accident, told Appalachian Magazine, “We were sitting there while the police took the reports from everyone then it came over the scanner about a tornado heading that way and they asked all that could to leave the area…”
During the confusion of yesterday’s West Virginia tornado, it was initially believed that the weather event was to be blamed for the accident, as the tornado was spotted near exit 16, less than 2 miles away during this same time.
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