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Whoever happens to stop by this blog may wonder why I started it. Whenever I read news stories online I always like to put a face to the story. So I got to thinking maybe other people would as well. I always keep up on WV news and most stories don't have the mugshots with them so I hunt them up online and post them with the story. It's not that hard and I don't know why the state news sites don't do it

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Driver charged in wheelchair accident

KENOVA -- Investigators charged an out-of-state tractor-trailer driver Monday in connection with the death of a disabled man who was well-known to many people in Kenova.

Deris Scott, 68, died about 10 a.m. Monday after his motorized wheelchair collided with the rear portion of a wide-turning tractor-trailer. The impact knocked Scott to the ground, but the truck continued on, dragging the wheelchair underneath its trailer.

Pieces of the wheelchair stretched for a quarter mile. The base landed two blocks south, next to a grocery store at Chestnut Street. The actual padded chair lay next to the curb at Sycamore Street, south of the town's green-painted underpass.

Police credited another motorist with chasing the tractor-trailer and forcing it to stop just north of the Interstate 64 interchange, approximately three-quarters of a mile from the crash site.

The driver -- Michael J. Joyce, 43, of South Carolina -- was charged with felony negligent homicide, along with two misdemeanors, failure to stop at the scene and accident causing death, said Bob McComas, chief of the Kenova Department of Public Safety. The chief described the crash as "a freak accident," but tragic. Indications were the driver never saw Scott crossing the intersection and never realized the collision had occurred, McComas said.

Kenova Elementary School custodian Steve Sullivan and Bernard Little were among the first witnesses to respond. Sullivan heard the collision and watched sparks fly as the truck drove away. He yelled and motioned for its driver to stop to no avail.

Little heard the impact from across U.S. 60 at the Dollar General. Little, a member of the store's management team, rushed to the crash and placed his jacket over Scott's body. He died within moments.

Word quickly spread to Scott's brother, Ara. He hurried to the scene looking for answers.

"He was a great guy, everybody liked him," he said.

Scott was a double amputee whose disability stemmed from his previous work with the state Division of Highways. Ara Scott said his brother's disability led him to befriend others who used wheelchairs. They frequently moved around the town.

Used car dealer Ron Ferguson frequently saw Deris Scott pass by and described him to be a local fixture. Ferguson's dealership is located at 14th Street and U.S. 60. He heard Monday's impact, but initially believed the truck hit the curb or a utility pole. He estimates he hears that sound 50 times a day, but he said this sound was different.

"This one was a little bit louder than usual," he said.

Kenova Elementary sits across 14th Street from Ferguson's dealership. Employees at the school were among those who reportedly witnessed different aspects of the crash. Principal Deidre Farley heard sirens from the responding officials. Some of her teachers saw its aftermath. She said the students were shielded from the scene; classrooms did not have windows facing the crash site.

United Bank employee Morgan Keyser heard the impact a block away. She looked outside and saw the smoke coming from the wheelchair at Chestnut and 14th streets. She said 14th Street motorists travel too fast without paying attention, causing each intersection to be particularly dangerous.

"It's ridiculous. It really is," she said.

McComas said pedestrian-involved crashes are rare in Kenova, but he acknowledged 14th Street and its intersections can be dangerous because of vehicle speed as motorists use the city route as a short cut from Interstate 64 to U.S. 60. He estimates officers have written 25 to 30 tickets during the past two weeks.

Farley was not among those who believe the intersection is overly dangerous, but she said safety concerns do keep her from allowing students from crossing at the busy intersection. She said a city police officer also watches the area when children are near the road.

Farley's preschool students were among those used to seeing Deris Scott out and about. Aide Anndrea Meadows and her students would frequently see Deris Scott on walks to the library.

"He was just a very nice man. He would always speak to the kids and say, 'I hope you have a good day,'" she recalled. "I'm going miss him, but I think the kids will miss just saying 'Hi.' He was just a common guy they always saw."

McComas also was accustomed to seeing Deris Scott wheel through downtown. The chief said he became emotional during interviews earlier in the day.

"He was a super nice guy," McComas said. "Life is so timid. One minute you're here. The next minute you're dead."

Investigators closed 14th Street between Chestnut and Oak streets to reconstruct the crash.

The Kenova Department of Public Safety investigated the crash with assistance from the West Virginia State Police, Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. An enforcement unit from the state Public Service Commission also was involved since the accident included a commercial vehicle.


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