Man dies when van plunges over embankment
An 80-year-old Berkeley Springs man was killed last Thursday when the Kia Sedona van he was in plunged over the 30 foot embankment above the Food Lion parking lot.
The victim was identified as Rev. Jack W. Hiles.
When West Virginia State Police Corporal A.T. Peer arrived on the scene on February 16 around 2:33 p.m., he found the victim’s vehicle on the west end of the parking lot at the bottom of the embankment, according to a State Police press release.
Peer reported that Morgan County Emergency Medical Services personnel were present and the victim was lying on the ground covered by a sheet.
Two witnesses to the accident said they looked up from the Food Lion parking lot and saw the vehicle facing from north to south on the crest of the hill, Peer said. Then the van went over the cliff near the doctor’s office, rolling side over side as it went down the hillside.
The witnesses said the victim was ejected as the vehicle made its way to the bottom of the hill before coming to rest in the lower parking lot.
The victim’s wife told Peer that she was in Dr. Joseph Hashem’s office picking up a prescription when she saw the van backing up out of the parking space in which she had left the vehicle. A pick-up truck blocked her view and she lost sight of the van. She had left the vehicle running to keep the heat on.
Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Department responders found the vehicle was in drive, so the man had to have backed up the van and tried to drive it, Peer said.
The family told him the victim had some Alzheimer’s and dementia issues and hadn’t driven in over a year, he said.
West Virginias State Trooper H. D. Heil, Morgan County Sheriff Vince Shambaugh, Deputy Kevin Barney, Deputy Cliff Coburn, Morgan County Emergency Medical Services and Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company responded to the scene, Peer said.
It was the first fatality in a vehicle going over that embankment that he’s heard of in the 17 years he’s been a trooper here, Peer said. He wasn’t aware of previous similar accidents.
Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company Captain Marshall Younker said there were two other prior incidents of vehicles going over that embankment and ending up in the Food Lion parking lot. Younker was a responder at one of those accidents.
In the earlier incidents, there were minor injuries, Younker said. In the one accident, he said that the driver may not have been transported to the hospital.
Younker also responded to the fatal accident scene last week. He said it was lucky that the van landed in a wide space where vendors park that’s between the hillside and the Food Lion parking area and not where people would be walking to their cars.
The medical office and parking lot are owned by the Morgan County Commission and leased to Valley Health.