BARTOW – Volunteer fire chief Buster Varner was giving a safety demonstration at a school when a real call came in: A logging truck had collided with a passenger train at a crossing in the remote mountains of West Virginia.
Varner’s unit was the first to arrive at the scene, and what he saw was alarming: A truck whose cab was crushed with driver Danny Lee Kimble still inside, its logs thrown like toothpicks. Two train passenger cars flipped on their sides.
“It was a hell of a mess. I could not believe when I pulled up there,” Varner said after returning home late Saturday morning to a bed that he hadn’t seen since 5 a.m. Friday.
A memorial service is set for Saturday morning for Kimble, a 38-year-old Bartow resident who worked for Fisher Logging Co., according to Wallace & Wallace Funeral Home in Arbovale. Kimble was killed in the collision Friday afternoon along U.S. 250 atop Cheat Mountain.
The Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad’s Cheat Mountain Salamander train carrying 63 sightseers and four crew members had embarked on a fall foliage trip during prime leaf-watching season in the heavily forested area.
At the same time, Varner, chief of the Bartow-Frank-Durbin Volunteer Fire Department, was showing schoolchildren a rescue demonstration with extrication equipment and a pretend patient.
Varner said the front end of the logging truck, normally about 8 feet long, was crushed to 2 feet. He said it took more than three hours to remove Kimble’s body.
It appeared the truck ran through crossing signals. “I did not see any skid marks,” Varner said.
Twenty-three people were treated at the hospital for injuries, and another 42 were examined and found to be unharmed, said Davis Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Tracy Fath. The Salamander takes tourists on 6.5-hour trips to areas reaching more than 4,000 feet in elevation.
Macy’s hiring more: Macy’s Inc. plans to hire about 2,100 seasonal workers at its fulfillment center in Martinsburg for the upcoming holiday season.
That’s three times the number of seasonal workers that the company initially projected it would hire.
Macy’s spokesman Jim Sluzewski said that more seasonal workers are needed because of rapid growth in the company’s online business. The center employs 1,100 year-round workers.
Deadly house explosion: One person was killed and at least three others were injured in an early morning house explosion Friday in the Northern Panhandle, Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson said.
Jackson said a natural gas leak was reported just before the house blew up in the Hooverson Heights neighborhood just outside Follansbee.
A neighbor made the report, Jackson said, but the blast came so soon after the call that the gas company hadn’t even been alerted yet.
The sheriff’s department issued a press release saying the home was owned by George and Tracy Mozingo but did not say who was hurt.
Jackson said he would withhold the name of the person killed until an autopsy confirms the identity, but close family friend Chris Grishkevich told media outlets the victim was the couple’s daughter, 13-year-old Hannah Mozingo.
“It’s something you see on a movie,” he said. “It’s just crazy how gas can build up and … just destroy a house. Destroy a family.”
WVU sports sees green: West Virginia University’s athletic department reported a $4.2 million profit during the 2012-13 fiscal year.
University officials reported revenues of $77.7 million in the school’s first season in the Big 12, compared with operating expenses of $73.5 million.
That compares to a record deficit of nearly $13 million in 2011-12, which incorporated an exit fee related to the university’s departure from the Big East.
“We all know how important it is to have a self-supporting athletic department,” said WVU athletic director Oliver Luck. “And that goal has been reached once again.”
Contributions to the Mountaineer Athletic Club of $23.9 million were a record for the second straight year. Ticket sales rose slightly to $21.6 million.
Ex-cop killed in shootout: A retired Wheeling police officer didn’t seem to be targeting anyone or any particular office Oct. 9 when he stood across the street from a federal courthouse in West Virginia and sprayed the glass facade with bullets.
Authorities say the 55-year-old even took pains to wave away bystanders before he started firing.
A clear motive hasn’t emerged for Thomas J. Piccard’s assault, but U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld said the building being the target and other evidence he wouldn’t detail indicates Piccard “had an anti-government bias.”
Acquaintance Mahlon Shields said the thin, sickly looking man told neighbors he was dying of cancer. She believes he was trying to get himself killed by law enforcement. He was shot dead when U.S. Marshals returned fire.
Fed shutdown affecting prisons: Hundreds of corrections officers at West Virginia’s federal penitentiaries will see delays in their paychecks for work performed during the partial government shutdown.
The officers were immune to furloughs of federal workers caused by the shutdown. However, they won’t get paid for work performed during the shutdown until it ends.
Jill Carver, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ teacher at the Federal Correctional Institution in Beckley, is worried staff members won’t have enough money for groceries or gas if the shutdown continues for very long.
Federal prison employees will receive a paycheck next week for work before the Oct. 1 shutdown began. But Carver says that paycheck likely would be small because it compensates them for a portion of their usual pay period.
MonPower hearing: West Virginia regulators are holding public hearings on Mon Power and Potomac Edison’s billing and meter-reading practices.
The Public Service Commission has scheduled the hearings for Oct. 24 and Oct. 25 in Fairmont.
The PSC began investigating the FirstEnergy subsidiaries’ billing and meter-reading practices in June after it received numerous complaints from customers.
FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers says there were issues stemming from windstorms in June 2012 and Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.
Meters typically are read every other month, Meyers says. Bills for the intervening months are based on estimates derived from the previous year’s bill and a computer algorithm.
Meter readers might miss some meters during storm response because they are diverted to other duties. This results in a series of estimated bills.
Trout on the way: State officials say about 32,000 pounds of trout will be stocked in West Virginia waters this week and next.
Officials with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources say trout will be stocked in 25 streams and nine lakes. Brook trout will make up about 20 percent of the 32,000 pounds.
Construction at New Creek Dam 14 in Grant County has been completed and the lake will be stocked with trout this month.
Quake hits Braxton: A minor earthquake has shaken the Sutton area in Braxton County.
The National Geological Survey’s website shows that a magnitude-2.2 earthquake occurred around 5:20 a.m. Sunday. The epicenter was 6 miles west-northwest of Sutton. No damage has been reported.
– Compiled with information from the Associated Press