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West Virginia officials are encouraging fire safety as students head back to school. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has proclaimed September as Campus Fire Safety Month in conjunction with the National Center for Campus Fire Safety. Tomblin says the month gives officials the opportunity to remind students of fire safety practices and ensure they have the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves. The four common factors in deadly campus fires are: lack of fire sprinkler systems; missing or disabled smoke alarms; careless disposal of smoking materials and impaired judgment from alcohol use.
There have been two fatal accidents on Kanawha County roads this week, and in both cases the person killed was not wearing a seat belt. On Tuesday, a husband was killed after being ejected through the back window of a vehicle his wife was driving. She was buckled in. And on Wednesday, there was an accident on I-79 South just before the Big Chimney exit near mile marker 7. The Kanwaha County Sheriff's office says the female driver was ejected and pronounced dead on the scene. She was not wearing a seatbelt. Meanwhile, Cpl. Brian Humphreys with the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office says they'll be participating in a Click-it or Ticket detail later this week:
The effort is funded and coordinated by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
The state plans to build a pedestrian tunnel to improve access to the State Fair of West Virginia's fairgrounds. The $2 million tunnel will run underneath southbound U.S. 219 in Fairlea. It will be located just north of an existing pedestrian bridge that links two parcels owned by the fair. State fair CEO Marlene Pierson-Jolliffe tells The Register-Herald the goal is to have the project completed by the 2015 fair. The tunnel will improve access to the fairgrounds for people with physical disabilities. The pedestrian bridge was built in 1975, before the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. Pierson-Jolliffe says the bridge is legal but a steep incline leading up to its crest can be difficult for some people to navigate.
Arrest figures show that a majority of drug arrests in West Virginia are for marijuana. A review of West Virginia drug arrests by The Charleston Gazette shows that more than half have been for marijuana since 2000. Charleston police Lt. Chad Napier says marijuana is one of the most commonly abused drugs. He says people arrested for other crimes often have marijuana in their possession. Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy Project says West Virginia has more severe problems with other drugs, such as methamphetamine and prescription drugs. He says the Legislature should revisit penalties for marijuana and reconsider whether marijuana possession should be a crime.
The single-vehicle rollover accident is still under investigation by the Kanawha County Sheriff's office. Cpl B-D Humphreys says it happened near the 112 mile marker of I-77 South, just before the Tupper’s Creek exit. A Toyota FJ Cruiser, was traveling south on I-77 when it left the road and rolled. The passenger was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected through the back glass. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver was wearing a seatbelt and sustained non-life threatening injuries, but is in critical condition. She was transported by ambulance to Charleston General Hospital. The involved driver and passenger were married. The passenger who died in the crash is identified as 44-year old Jonathan Copley. His wife is 38-year old Susan Copley. Both were residents of Man, West Virginia. The accident reconstruction team has been working on the investigation, but no cause just yet.
The ill effects continue after an illegal tree harvest at Coonskin Park....David Bowen with Russell Trucking was recently found not guilty of stealing timber, but yesterday there were calls for the director of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission to step down. Jeff Hutchinson was criticized for not doing something to stop the cutting of trees. There were also concerns raised about the $250,000 in legal fees spend and then getting a not guilty verdict for the logger. WCHS TV reports board members will try to obtain transcripts between Hutchinson and Bowen to figure out what went wrong and where they'll go from here.
Colleges in West Virginia continue to face budget cuts and deal with the ramifications of less funding. The Charleston Gazette reported that about 13 West Virginia University employees have been fired as part of a reduction in force for this budget year. WVU spokesman John Bolt says more than 100 positions have been left vacant, and departments have been restructured. Marshall University spokeswoman Ginny Painter says about three dozen positions have been eliminated through attrition, but there have been no layoffs. West Virginia State University has fired 10 employees and eliminated 15 already vacant positions. Also, WVU-Tech and Shepherd University officials have chosen to not fill some positions.
Charleston police have made an arrest connected to two burglaries...one at a home on Sheridan Circle last Wednesday, and another from a home on Lower Donnelly Road on Sunday. 24-year old Jordan Dickens of Charleston is charged with two counts of burglary, according to a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha County Magistrate Court. Items stolen included jewelry, electronics, an X-box One, and video games. Dickens sold the stolen items at Gamestop in the Charleston Towncenter Mall, and the serial number that was matched at Leads Online, and jewelry was matched there as well.
Ginseng diggers are heading to West Virginia's forests as the season for harvesting the plant opens. West Virginia's ginseng season began Monday and runs through Nov. 30. Ginseng dealer Dave Cook tells The Charleston Gazette that he expects a good harvest this year, based on this summer's climate and the success of last year's season. Ginseng diggers have until March 31 to sell the roots to a registered ginseng dealer in state. March 31 also is the deadline for diggers who don't sale their ginseng to obtain a weight receipt from the West Virginia Division of Forestry. The receipt allows diggers to possess ginseng from April 1 through Aug. 31.
We're going on a week now, and a young mother of four is still missing. 26-year old Ashley NIcole Toler of Boone County was last seen Friday, August 22nd. Troopers say she left the house that morning to catch the bus to school where she was working on her GED, and she hasn't been seen since. Her grandmother dropped her off, and she reportedly told her boyfriend and childen she'd see them that night. Her children are age 8 and under. Anyone with information on where Toler may be should call the WVSP Boone County detachment at (304) 369-7800.