State trooper suffers head injury in collision Tuesday

by Kate Shunney

A West Virginia State Police trooper stationed with the Berkeley Springs detachment suffered a serious head injury that required medical treatment at Winchester Medical Center on Tuesday night following a crash with a dump truck in Great Cacapon. A Morgan County Sheriff’s deputy picked up on signs of the serious injury over the police radio and brought assistance to the trooper before the crash was reported.

Cpl. J.A. Padilla was injured when his cruiser struck the back of a dump truck that was not equipped with working tail lights. According to First Sgt. S.B. Huffman, District 2 Commander of the West Virginia State Police in Romney, Padilla was traveling east on Cacapon Road when the collision occurred around 8 p.m.

In a press release about the incident, Sgt. Huffman said a 3500 Dodge Ram dump truck driven by Carleton W. Vangosen, 42, was operating in the 6000 block of Cacapon Road when Vangosen stopped for unknown reasons. Because the truck didn’t have functioning tail lights, Cpl. Padilla wasn’t able to see that it was stopped and struck the truck from behind.

Vangosen, of Great Cacapon, was arrested Tuesday by Deputy B. Knotts of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department for DUI causing serious bodily injury and failure to render aid to Padilla.  In a criminal complaint filed in Morgan County Magistrate Court, Knotts reported that he was on his police radio on Tuesday evening and overheard Cpl. Padilla sounding dazed and confused. He then noticed Padilla was not responding to any other radio traffic.

Deputy Knotts knew the general location of Cpl. Padilla, having cleared an earlier call with him, so he enlisted the help of an EMT from Morgan County EMS to travel with him to locate Cpl. Padilla. Near the intersection of Detour Road and Cacapon Road, Dep. Knotts observed Cpl. Padilla’s West Virginia State Police cruiser with heavy front-end damage. He saw Cpl. Padilla in the middle of the roadway in a confused state. Nearby, a blue Dodge dump truck was partially in the road.

Dep. Knotts stated he escorted Cpl. Padilla to his patrol vehicle for evaluation by EMT Zach Scott until additional units arrived on the scene. He noted that Padilla was bleeding profusely from his right eyebrow and continued to repeat sentences and displayed signs of severe head trauma.

While Padilla was being evaluated, Dep. Knotts located a man, later identified as Vangosen, at the driver’s side of the dump truck. Vangosen did not turn his attention to the state trooper or offer him any aid. Knotts reported that Vangosen showed signs of impairment, including an unsteady posture, slurred speech and lack of coordination. He detained Vangosen and prior to a search of his person, asked Vangosen if he had any drugs. His answer and a search revealed a plastic contained with caps of suspected fentanyl in Vangosen’s front pocket.

Vangosen allegedly had no valid driver’s license and no insurance on the dump truck.

During question, Vangosen reportedly admitted to taking drugs prior to driving the truck.

Dep. Knotts noted that a second man arrived on the scene and claimed to be the owner of the dump truck, which he said he let Vangosen borrow in spite of his lack of a driver’s license.

During further investigation, officers determined that a male passenger had been in the truck during the collision and had fled the scene. Morgan County 911 then received a medical assistance call for a male who had been involved in a motor vehicle accident. That man, later identified as Nick Kidwell, was located at Pop’s Lane, at least three miles from the location of Padilla’s cruiser. Kidwell was transported for medical treatment by EMS.

At the crash scene, Dep. Knotts observed that the dump truck involved in the crash did not have functioning tail lights, the load in the bed was not secure and a ratchet strap was holding the bed onto the frame of the truck.

Vangosen was transported to Berkeley Medical Center prior to being incarcerated at the Eastern Regional Jail.  Police said there are additional pending charges against him.

Assisting the West Virginia State Police and Morgan County Sheriff’s Department were the Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Company, Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company and Morgan County EMS.