June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Softball team reaches destination after crash in Virginia

Members of the Medina High School softball team arrived safely in Myrtle Beach, S.C., after they were delayed when their bus was part of a 95-vehicle pileup in Virginia.

Softball coach Jessica Toocheck said the team was able to get another charter bus to finish the trip.

None of the students were seriously injured in what police said was a series of 17 chain-reaction crashes in the fog-shrouded Fancy Gap mountain area, about six miles from the North Carolina border.

Virginia State Police identified the three people who died as a result of the crashes Monday. They were: Andrew Katbi, 24, of Delphos, Ohio; William M. Sosebee, 33, of Allen, Ky.; and Kathern Worley, 71, of Iron Station, N.C. Twenty-five people were injured.

Police said Sosebee and Worley were passengers in different vehicles that struck the same tractor-trailer, while Katbi was the driver of another vehicle that rear-ended a tractor-trailer. All died at the scene.

The softball team was scheduled to play 2 p.m. Monday at the Grand Strand Softball Classic tournament, but that game was delayed until 7 p.m. because of rain. They will play five games this week and return to Medina on Friday.

Toocheck has said one of the 12 players on the bus “had a minor head injury,” but none of the students had to be taken to the hospital. The bus hit a vehicle in front of it and was rear-ended by several other vehicles, she said.

The crashes began around 1:15 p.m. Sunday when there was heavy fog in the area.

“This mountain is notorious for fog banks. They have advance signs warning people. But the problem is, people are seeing well and suddenly they’re in a fog bank,” said Glen Sage of the American Red Cross office in the town of Galax.

Since 1997, there have been at least six pileups on the mountain. But Sunday’s crash was the most deadly, according to The Roanoke Times. Two people died in crashes involving dozens of vehicles in both 2000 and 2010.

State police said traffic along the interstate in southwest Virginia backed up for about eight miles in the southbound lanes after the accidents. Authorities closed the northbound lanes so that fire trucks, ambulances and police could get to the wrecked vehicles.

Overhead message boards warned drivers starting at about 6 a.m. Sunday to slow down because of the severe fog, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. The crashes mostly were caused by drivers going too fast for the conditions.

At the center of the crash was a wreck involving up to eight vehicles, some of which caught fire, Geller said. Photos from the accident scene showed a burned-out tractor-trailer and several crumpled vehicles badly charred. People taken to hospitals had injuries ranging from serious to minor.

School buses took stranded people to shelters and hotels.

Authorities reopened the northbound lanes Sunday night and the southbound lanes around midnight.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.