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Cause still sought for 38-vehicle pileup

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Investigators still are working to determine what caused what officers are calling the biggest crash in the state's history.

It happened Thursday evening in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 64 on the Nitro-St. Albans Interstate Bridge.

Brian Oxley, Nitro's police chief, said there were five or six officers, which is more than half of road patrol, working on reports from the 38-vehicle crash.

"We're still putting everything together, trying to get reports ironed out to get a good broad view of what actually happened," Oxley said. "I know we're more than a quarter done. I've already reviewed some of the reports."

Oxley said officers were being thorough in their investigation, "crossing every 'T' and dotting every 'I.'" He did not want to speculate on possible factors.

At first, dispatchers told officers there were 10 to 12 vehicles involved. Then it was 20 to 25 vehicles. The last they heard from dispatchers there were 30-plus vehicles involved, Oxley said.

A count would turn up 38 vehicles and 22 people injured, Oxley said. Nine people were taken to local hospitals, including four to Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital.

 He said he did not believe there had been a crash this large in the state's history.

"It's just going to take a little bit of time," Oxley said.

The crash held up graduation for Putnam County's Winfield High School. About a dozen seniors set to graduate were stuck in and behind the crash.

Commencement exercises were scheduled to begin at 7 that night at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, but started much later as graduating seniors asked school officials to wait for their classmates.

Winfield Principal Bruce McGrew had been worried about his students and their families. He said after the ceremony that it worked out like clockwork because the students already were on their way when he made the decision to wait.

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