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Turnpike reopens after wreck closed southbound lanes near Sharon

SHARON, W.Va. — All lanes of the West Virginia Turnpike have opened back up, according to the West Virginia Parkways Authority.

Southbound lanes of the Turnpike were closed for several hours after a large truck carrying 40,000 pounds of cold rolled steel crashed Monday afternoon in eastern Kanawha County.

The wreck occurred just south of the Chelyan toll plaza near the Sharon exit at around 3:45 p.m. Authorities were able to open one northbound lane by 4:30 p.m.

All lanes opened back up round 10 p.m.

There were no injuries reported in connection with the crash.

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Consolidation of schools proposed for 2024

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Board of Education is considering consolidating select elementary schools.

Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Tom Williams proposed closures of Grandview Elementary in Charleston, Marmet Elementary in eastern Kanawha County and Weimer Elementary in St. Albans at the end of the 2023-24 school year. Williams said these moves need to be made.

“We must make changes to our facilities to provide our students the learning opportunities they deserve,” Williams said.

The proposal from Williams would have Grandview kids go to either Mary C. Snow or Edgewood Elementary on Charleston’s West Side, Weimer kids to Bridgeview in South Charleston or Alban Elementary in St. Albans and Marmet students would go to Chesapeake Elementary.

Declining enrollment and aging buildings are the two main reasons consolidation would be a good move, according to Williams.

“With fewer schools, we can pull resources, reduce overhead costs and allocate funds,” said Williams.

Williams told school board members Monday the consolidations could be done without costing the school system any money. He also said it’s critical not to put this decision off.

“We’ve got three (schools) right here that we could consolidate without any extra money,” he said.

The superintendent said he knows consolidation is an emotional issue, but thinks it’s a necessary step for the district’s future.

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University edges Bridgeport 47-43 to secure home-court advantage in sectional

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — University girls basketball coach Nick Lusk hoped the Hawks would force the ball out of Bridgeport point guard Gabby Reep’s hands as often as possible when the two teams battled Monday at BHS.

In the first half, it didn’t happen as frequently as Lusk wanted it to, and Reep scored 12 points to key the Indians to a 28-22 halftime lead.

Over the final two quarters, however, the Hawks picked up their defensive pressure and consistently applied a double team on Reep. In turn, University held Bridgeport’s standout point guard without a field goal and to four points, which was imperative in the Hawks rallying for an important 47-43 victory.

“That was the plan from the beginning. We just didn’t come out with that effort from the start,” Lusk said. “We came out in the second half and played a lot better defensively, but she’s good and she’s going to get hers. We have to get it out of her hands and we didn’t do that in the first half at all.” 

In a matchup of Class AAAA Region I, Section 2 foes that now have identical records, University (13-7) secured home-court advantage in the four-team section that also features Bridgeport (13-7), Buckhannon-Upshur and Preston.

The Hawks went to halftime trailing by six, and the deficit grew to eight early in the third quarter when Reep made two free throws.

However, Emily Sharkey scored the next five points on a 3-pointer and fallaway jumper to make it a one-possession deficit, and Sharkey’s two free throws at the 2:21 mark of the quarter allowed UHS to trail by one.

“At halftime, I was saying, ‘If you want to be your home for your section, then you have to come out and play,’” Lusk said. “If not, then we can come back down here, because that’s what’s going to happen if you don’t come out and play. We came out and played.”

When Ella Simpson followed by making a jump shot, the Hawks led 31-30, though they ultimately surrendered their first and only field goal of the frame when Bridgeport’s Emily Anderson beat the third-quarter buzzer with a layup.

Anderson opened the fourth-quarter scoring with another basket from close range, and after Lyla Byers answered with a triple to tie the contest at 34, the Indians went back in front courtesy of Haylee Pryor’s layup.

Simpson made 3-of-4 free throws over a stretch of 51 seconds to put UHS on top 37-36, before Reep made 1-of-2 foul shots to knot the game again.

Sharkey then stepped up and connected on a trey to put UHS in front by three, before Jaylin Dodd scored on a short leaner to bring Bridgeport back to within a point.

With just inside 2 minutes remaining, Simpson made a challenged shot on a drive to the basket to put her team back in front by three.

“We rely on Ella,” Lusk said. “She’s our go to and when we need a bucket, we know we can go to her and we can go to Hannah [Stemple], and they’re going to get us something.”

The Hawks’ lead was still three after Sharkey split two free throws with 34 seconds left. The one she missed was rebounded by Reep, who continued to draw the bulk of the Hawks’ attention and found an open Madalyn Amick on the wing for a tying triple with 24 seconds remaining.

However, after Stemple received in the inbound pass, Reep was whistled for a foul that sent Stemple to the free-throw line. She made both foul shots with 20 seconds left for a 45-43 advantage, and Dodd was whistled for a travel on the ensuing possession.

“We made some other mental errors at the end of the game,” Bridgeport coach Herman Pierson said. 

With 10 seconds remaining, Eden Gibson made 1-of-2 free throws, and Sharkey corralled the offensive rebound from the miss, before she made one free throw with 9 seconds for the final margin.

“She played excellent, but she’s a great leader for us,” Lusk said of Sharkey. “She’s always been that. This offseason, she really bought in and she’s been fantastic.”

The Indians led 16-13 after one quarter, and Reep and Dodd, who combined for 24 first-half points, accounted for their team’s final eight points of the half to turn what had been a 20-18 advantage into a six-point halftime lead.

Simpson scored 16 points and Sharkey added 12. Byers was a key contributor in the win with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.

Reep finished with 16 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Dodd added 14 points and five rebounds, while Anderson contributed eight points in defeat.

Amick’s tying 3 was Bridgeport’s only one. The Tribe were also responsible for 17 of the game’s 25 turnovers.

“We made some bad judgment on what to do with the ball and in the last four minutes of the game, we didn’t do a very good job,” Pierson said. “We weren’t patient enough on offense and threw the ball away two or three times. We missed a free throw that would’ve made a difference. We didn’t block out on a free throw. 

“We played a good game, so I can’t complain. We did a lot of things that I can certainly take away as a positive, but in close games against good teams, you can’t make those kinds of mistakes, and they’ve heard it from me all year.” 

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Officers honored for Narcan use that saved mans life

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — In a brief ceremony Monday afternoon, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Will Thompson recognized members of the Summersville Police Department who saved a mans life a few weeks ago after he had ingested fentanyl.

“This is something that deserves recognition by this community,” Thompson said.

Will Thompson

On the day of the incident, Cpl. Steve Mullins was executing a traffic stop when the man in the vehicle ran away from him. Mullins was able to apprehend the man and then noticed multiple plastic bags on the mans person. The man initially told Mullins he had not ingested anything, but later told him he did use the drugs that were in the plastic bags. Those drugs ended up being fentanyl.

According to Thompson, Mullins called for assistance from two patrolmen, Kyle Carothers and Ryan Woods, once he realized what the man had ingested. Thompson said while the officers were transporting the man to EMS, they noticed he became distressed and his lips had turned blue. Carothers then administered Narcan to the man, ultimately saving his life. Woods kept the man awake until they got him to the hospital.

Thompson says he’s a big proponent of using Narcan. John Nowak, the police chief of the department, requires all officers to have Narcan in their vehicles. A policy that Thompson said he 100% agrees with.

“It’s a way of reversing an opioid overdose, basically a way of saving someone’s life,” Thompson said.

The attorney recognized the officers involved in saving the mans life, and awarded them a certificate and a challenge coin.

“There’s been a lot of negativity around police departments in the last couple weeks in the national press, so I wanted to do something that actually highlighted some of the great work they’re doing,” said Thompson.

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Woman whose husband was killed by distracted driver pushes for increased penalties

Story by David Beard, The Dominion Post

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Preston County woman told legislators her story of the deadly consequences f distracted driving at they considered a bill to update and enhance the penalties for that crime on Monday.

Mike Honaker

The bill was HB 2218, before House Judiciary. Several delegates called it one of the most important bills of the year.

Karrah Ames testified on this issue last year and told the members again on Monday that her husband, Robin, was an avid bicyclist. Feb. 17, 2020, was an unseasonably warm day and he was cycling on a road he knew well (Old Route 73 near Bruceton Mills, according to news reports).

She was able to track him via GPS, she said, he wore bright clothing and his bike was equipped with read radar to let him know what was behind him.

But the woman who killed him, Ames said, was coming toward him, not from behind, and she was looking at the weather app on her cell phone. News reports say she didn’t know she hit him until she felt the “thud.”

“I guess I should feel grateful the she didn’t leave him at the scene,” Ames said.

Robin was behind his expected arrival time, she said, so she called his cell phone. But someone else answered. “I just said, ‘Has he been hit?’ Somebody said, ‘Yes he has.’ I just screamed and I drove.”

She said, “I can’t tell you what the weight of his absence means in my life, in our daughters’ lives.” Their youngest had just turned 4 two days before Robin’s death. “It is a hole that will never be filled.”

Relevant to the bill, she said that the crimes the driver person was convicted of merited nothing more than community service hours – never served – levied in traffic court.

HB 2218 is called the Distracted Driving Act. It applies to cell phones, audio and video devices, tablets, laptops, notebooks, data retrieval devices and GPS receivers.

Voice-activated and hands-free devices are exempted. Current law exempts ride-share drivers and the bill adds taxi and limo drivers, as they all use dispatch software.

Along with monetary penalties for distracted driving, the bill adds penalties for causing harm or death.

Harm to property is a misdemeanor carrying a fine of $100 to $500. Serious physical harm to a person is also a misdemeanor, with a fine of $500 to $1,000 and/or jail up to 120 days, plus a one-year licenses revocation.

Causing death is considered negligent homicide, with up to a year in jail a fine of $100 to $1,000, or both.

The bill also adds, at the request of automakers, committee counsel said, an exception for using devices in vehicles equipped for automated driving systems – better known as autonomous vehicles, which are going to become more prevalent, the automakers told counsel.

Matt Overturf, with the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, provided some statistics. He said 26 states, including neighbors Ohio and Virginia, have similar laws; neighbors Kentucky and Pennsylvania have similar bills moving in their legislatures. While Ohio’s law doesn’t take effect until April, states with laws in place report reduced distracted-driving crashes.

In 2020, he said, federal statistics for distracted-driving crashes involving wireless show 3,142 deaths and 424,000 injured. One in five of those involved were not inside vehicles.

Ames said that thorough her work, she took a driver training class that involved running an obstacle course of cones while answering a cell phone. She and everyone else in the class hit the cones. “There was no awareness of being solely focused on the job at hand.”

Asked if the bill does enough, she said no. Penalties can accomplish some, but more education is needed. “I do think this just sort of scratches the surface a little bit.” But it’s a starting point.

Delegate Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier, is a former state trooper and told his colleagues he’s a court-certified crash investigator. “They’re not accidents, they’re crashes.”

One of his young colleagues, Andrew Fox, was killed at age 27 by a distracted driver, he said, just one day before he and his wife were going to close on a home.

It’s rarely the issue covered in car inspections – worn tires or brakes for instance – that lead to crashes, he said. It’s drinking, driving too fast, and being distracted by a cell phone. “And it costs people their lives.”

In the case of Fox, he said, the driver was fined $500 and did no time in jail. “We need to create a culture of compliance,” where people understand what’s expected.

The bill cleared the Technology and Infrastructure Committee before coming to Judiciary, and now goes to the full House after a unanimous vote on Monday.

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Photo gallery: Logan defeats Scott, 59-55

LOGAN, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Logan’s 59-55 win over Scott.

(Photo gallery courtesy of Boothe Davis/Captured by the Moment Photography)

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South Charleston collects 12th win of the season, 65-53 over Jefferson

INSTITUTE, W.Va. — Highlights from South Charleston’s 65-53 win over Jefferson in the Par Mar Shootout at West Virginia State University.

South Charleston (12-5):

  • Nasjaih Jones – 22 points
  • Bryson Smith – 16 points

Jefferson (10-5):

  • Jamari Jenkins – 16 points
  • Jaiden Gladney – 15 points
  • Will Shivley – 12 points


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Dobbs comes up big for Fairmont Senior as the Polar Bears rally past Logan, 53-52

INSTITUTE, W.Va. — Highlights from Fairmont Senior’s 53-52 win over Logan in the Par Mar Shootout at West Virginia State University.

Fairmont Senior (14-1):

  • Zycheus Dobbs – 21 points
  • DeSean Goode – 18 points

Logan (10-9):

  • Derek Browning – 16 points
  • Scott Browning – 15 points
  • Julius Clancy – 12 points

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Equipment failure blamed in Anmoore oil spill

ANMOORE, W.Va. — An Anmoore manufacturing facility is facing multiple violations following a suspected equipment failure on Dec. 29 that caused an oil spill.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Assistant Chief Inspector of Environmental Enforcement Brad Wright said Amsted Graphite Materials (AGM) was using an oil/water separation system that malfunctioned.

Brad Wright

“The water is discharged through multiple oil/water separators, and my understanding is the tank associated with this system failed, and the water overwhelmed all the separators and reached the stream,” Wright said.

Wright said the amount of oil that went into the stream has not been determined, but he said there was no documented damage to aquatic life. The release did create a sheen in Ann Moore Run, Elk Creek, and the West Fork River that stretched ten miles downstream.

“We in Environmental Enforcement ensure that a responsible party for a release fulfills their duty to remediate or render harmless any release to waters in the state,” Wright said.

DEP inspectors were at the scene of the spill not before it happened and reported it to be “satisfactory” at that time. Hours later, the spill was reported, and DEP personnel were dispatched to the area. Monitoring of the area continued for about a week after the spill.

“We’re going to look closer at the facility in its entirety for an inspection, and based on the combined findings of our investigation into this release and the site inspection, we will determine our next steps,” Wright said.

Wright said AGM has violated clean water standards in the past, and those prior violations will be considered during the penalty phase when this inspection and investigation conclude.

“We have had informal and formal enforcement actions on Amsted Graphite Materials in the past,” Wright said. “They have reported releases in the past, and the Environmental Protection Agency has also taken enforcement actions on Amsted Graphite Materials in the past.”


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Jackson Smith scores 26 points as Parkersburg South bests Huntington, 98-84

INSTITIUTE, W.Va. — Highlights from Parkersburg South’s 98-84 win over Huntington in the Par Mar Shootout at West Virginia State University.

Parkersburg South (12-4):

  • Jackson Smith – 26 points
  • Nathan Plotner – 19 points
  • Aiden Blake – 12 points
  • Cyrus Traugh – 10 points
  • Cole Joy – 10 points

Huntington (14-3):

  • Duane Harris – 30 points
  • Mikey Johnson – 29 points


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