When the ambulance she was riding in veered off the West Virginia Turnpike and smashed into a rock wall….
9-13-04-Charleston WVA, A 9-year-old McDowell County girl remained in critical condition Sunday in a Charleston hospital after an ambulance accident that killed her mother. The West Virginia State Police said Jeanie Hunt, 33, of Avondale died Saturday when the ambulance she was riding in veered off the West Virginia Turnpike and smashed into a rock wall. The driver, James Harrison of Dunbar, might have fallen asleep at the wheel, said Sgt. J.K. Rapp of the State Police Turnpike Division. The wreck occurred at about 4:30 p.m. as the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority vehicle was transporting the girl and her mother from Charleston to their McDowell County home. Hunt was sitting in the passenger seat and her daughter was riding in the rear of the ambulance with emergency medical technician Megan McQuinn, Rapp said. Harrison and McQuinn also were injured in the accident, which took place just south of Pax, about 5 miles north of Beckley, under dry and clear driving conditions. McQuinn had to be extricated and might have severely injured her leg, Rapp said. All the injured were taken to Raleigh General Hospital. Harrison was in the emergency room and McQuinn was in surgical intensive care Sunday, a spokeswoman said. The girl, who police would not name, was airlifted to Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital. She was in critical condition in the intensive care unit Sunday, a spokeswoman said. There was no indication that the ambulance was forced off the road by another vehicle, Rapp said. We suspect we have good indications the driver may have dozed off, he said. I got a statement from a driver directly behind. He said it [the ambulance] drifted off onto the shoulder and kept going.
We didn’t see any braking, which would have indicated someone alert would have stepped on the brake. Because there was no braking, I couldn’t get an indication of the speed. The legal limit in the area is 70 mph for cars and 65 for trucks, he said. No citations have been issued. Rapp said police probably will let the Raleigh County prosecutor’s office decide whether to cite Harrison.