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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Work crews will start repaving sections of Interstate-64 next week.
On Monday, April 3, work will began between the Dunbar interchange and the Oakwood Road interchange of I-64. The repaving will be done at night to minimize the impact on those traveling through.
“Every time we can do work at night or when there is less of an effect on traffic we do so,” said West Virginia Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston, P.E. “We always consider congestion and inconvenience to the public when doing a project.”
At least one eastbound and westbound lane will be open to traffic at all times and all lanes will be open during the day. Delays could happen for nightime drivers in the area. The work schedule for the repaving crews is also dependent on the weather.
West Virginia Paving was awarded $18.6 million in July last year to repave I-64 between Dunbar and Oakwood Road.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One person was injured following a vehicle crash into a gas station.
Dispatchers said a person was transported to hospital after they wrecked their car into the Liberty gas station in Shrewsbury Wednesday. There’s no word on their condition.
The gas station owner and a customer were inside the store at the time of the crash at around 4:15 p.m. They were not injured.
WINFIELD, W.Va. — A Winfield woman is jailed after a domestic fight left her mother with serious injuries.
Putnam County Sheriff Bobby Eggleton said Hannah Simms, 24, of Winfield was charged with malicious wounding and domestic assault after a confrontation with her mother at a trailer in the Winfield Mobile Home Park Tuesday evening.
“The daughter apparently stabbed the victim twice, once in the hand and once in the chest area. The victim fled the area taking her grandson with her,” said Eggleton.
The grandson, age 2, is the son of Simms, but the victim has legal custody of the child.
Initially it was reported the incident involved a confrontation between Simms and her boyfriend which had gotten out of hand and the victim had stepped in to break up the fight. Eggleton said upon further investigation that turned out not to be the case.
“We first thought the domestic was between the daughter and her boyfriend and the boyfriend had fled the area. But after questioning the suspect and the victim, we’ve come to conclude this fight was over the two year old,” said the Sheriff.
The grandmother, who Eggleton did not identify, was taken to the hospital for treatment of her wounds. The wounds were not life threatening and it’s unclear if she spent the night in the hospital or was released. Simms is lodged in the Western Regional Jail.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The FDA has now approved the overdose-reversal medication, Naloxone for over-the-counter distribution, and many West Virginia officials are pleased by the move.
The 4 milligram (mg) Narcan nasal spray is the first kind of Naloxone product to receive approval for consumer-use without a prescription.
The medication that enables the rapid reversal of the effects of opioid overdoses will soon be sold at drug stores, grocery, and convenience stores nationwide.
While the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy has been supplying Narcan to the state since 2020 through campaigns such as Save a Life Day among other naloxone distribution events, along with getting it to the hands of law enforcement officers and first responders, state health officer Dr. Matthew Christiansen said the FDA’s decision will now make it more accessible than ever.
“This is an important step in making Naloxone much more available to people who need it when they need it,” Christiansen told Metro News Wednesday.
He went on to say that such accessibility is crucial in saving more lives, especially because many overdoses are accidental.
“We know that many people who overdose don’t do it on purpose, it’s largely an accidental event, even though the drugs they are taking are incredibly dangerous and we try to council people on how dangerous they are and how unpredictable they are,” Christiansen said.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito said the accessibility of the drug has never been more timely.
“It’s never been more important to adopt opioid overdose prevention and reversal strategies on a wide-scale,” Capito posted on social media Wednesday following the announcement.
Capito, along with Senator Joe Manchin joined a bipartisan, bicameral effort to make naloxone available for consumer-use last year.
Manchin said in a statement that the need for the FDA’s over-the-counter approval was highly great in West Virginia’s fight against opioid use.
“Given the enormous scale of need, it has never been more important to adopt opioid overdose prevention and reversal strategies on a wide scale. Naloxone is an immeasurably valuable resource for our fight against the drug epidemic, and it is proven to be safe and effective for public use. I’m thrilled to see the FDA take this meaningful action to make naloxone available over-the-counter, which helps reduce stigma and encourages the widespread use of this critical medication during emergencies. Today’s decision is a huge step in the right direction to make affordable Narcan accessible for every West Virginian and American, and it will save lives,” Manchin said.
Governor Jim Justice, also pleased with the FDA’s decision to make it more accessible, said it will only help to save more lives.
“To make this more available, more present in schools, churches, or wherever it may be, this just saves lives, that’s all there is to it,” Justice said.
According to the FDA, over 101,750 fatal overdoses were reported last year alone, primarily from synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl. The CDC determined overdoses claimed the lives of over 1,417 West Virginians in 2021.
However, despite the need for continued accessibility of naloxone, especially in states like West Virginia that have been the hardest hit from the opioid crisis, Christiansen said the life-saving drug is still highly stigmatized.
“There is still a lot of stigma with picking up naloxone, people judge other people for picking up naloxone, even when it’s not for them, it might be for a family member or a friend, it might be for their son or daughter who’s dealing with addiction,” said Christiansen.
However, he hopes the increased availability of the product will help to reduce the stigma, adding that more naloxone brands are expected to be placed over-the-counter within the next cou
ple of years.
While Christiansen was unsure of the potential price of over-the-counter Narcan, he expects it to be set at a competitive cost on the market as other brands become available. He said it’s also very easy to administer to someone who’s overdosing.
“It’s very simple, it’s just like using a nasal spray for allergies, it goes in the nose, you spray it, and it delivers a consistent dose of the medication,” he said.
Christiansen reminded that Narcan and other forms of naloxone are not opioids in themselves, and they are only effective on people who are overdosing.
The FDA says it may take months for Narcan to switch from prescription to over-the-counter form, but that they will work with stakeholders to facilitate its availability.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County man who was sentenced to prison Wednesday says “drugs completely ruled his life” when he crashed his car into a motorcyclist last year.
“I am so sorry this happened and for taking his life,” David Slack, 36, told the court before a judge sent him away for 3-15 years.
Slack, of Marmet, previously pleaded guilty to a charge of DUI causing death. It was his third DUI arrest in 33 days. Slack was high on meth when he struck Lonnie Bellew, 61, of Dawes, on Mar. 11, 2022.
The crash occurred along MacCorkle Avenue near 65th Street in Charleston. Bellew was parked when Slack struck him from behind, propelling him off his Harley-Davidson and into a parked box truck in front of him.
Bellew was rushed to CAMC where he later died of his injuries.
Bellew’s family said it was the worst day of their lives. Bellew’s oldest son, Steven, told the court he has to relive that day whenever he drives to work. His route takes him by the crash scene and where his father is currently buried.
“I drive past where he slammed into my dad and killed him dead and then about 20 minutes later I drive past the cemetery where my dad is laid to rest. It’s on my commute every day. There’s no way around it to get to where I work,” he said.
Steven Bellew said he often feels like he’s “going through the motions” knowing his father is gone and that the accident could’ve been avoided.
“If my dad would’ve lived, he would’ve never walked again. You paralyzed him from the waist down. No one should ever have to go through that,” he said.
Bellew’s youngest son, Josh, also addressed his father’s killer and asked the judge to sentence Slack to a maximum of 10 years.
“Ten years, that’s about how many good years my dad probably had left,” he said.
Josh Bellew said Slack took away a lot, but what he can’t do is take away the special memories he shared with dad. The two had a love for motorcycles and exploring new routes.
“I can’t tell you how many miles we rode together. All the beautiful roads in this state that nobody even knows about, he knew about and always took me there,” he said.
His brother Steven said it pains him to know, even with a 3-15 year sentence, Slack will still be released from prison at some point. The loss of his father, he said, is forever.
“You robbed us of more memories we still had to make — Christmases, Thanksgivings and birthdays — you’ve robbed us of all that. We will never get him back,” he said. “You’ll get another chance one day. My family and I will never get that chance.”
A Kanawha County judge sentences David Slack, 36, to 3-15 years in prison for DUI causing death. Slack was high on meth when he crashed his car into Lonnie Bellew, 61, who was stopped on his motorcycle along MacCorkle Ave near 65th St in Charleston in March 2022. @WVMetroNews pic.twitter.com/L4GFrhbnrB
— Carrie Hodousek (@CarrieHodousek) March 29, 2023
Bellew’s wife of 33 years told Judge Carrie Webster the sun was shining on the day Lonnie died. His last words at the hospital were “I love my family.”
During her testimony, his wife shared a heartwarming Father’s Day card with music inside that he received from his sons.
After closing the card, she went on to tell the judge “it would be insanity” if Slack didn’t get at least 10 years behind bars.
Before sentencing Slack, Webster said she was upset with how the court system failed the Bellew family.
“This case underscores a problem in our criminal Justice system,” the judge said. “I’m almost speechless that we got here. This should not have happened.”
Slack’s attorney John Mitchell had asked the judge to sentence him to a 9–12-month drug treatment program to make sure he’s “healthy and contributing to society.” Mitchell said putting Slack in prison would prolong his recovery and prevent him from helping others who are also suffering from drug addiction.
Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Monica Schwartz asked for the maximum prison sentence.
Judge Webster instead said Slack will get credit for time served but will need to remain behind bars for no less than 3 years and no more than 15 years. Slack will need undergo drug treatment before being considered for release.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Providing effective ways to help prevent house fires was the focus at the Kanawha County Courthouse Wednesday. The regional American Red Cross joined forces with the Kanawha County Commission and local firefighters to kick off Sound the Alarm, Save a Life.
It’s a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about house fires and the need to have working smoke alarms in the home. According to the Red Cross, house fires claim up to seven lives everyday.
Red Cross Regional CEO, Erica Mani, said in many cases, it’s a disaster which could have been prevented with an up-to-date smoke detector.
“It’s extremely important, in fact, people don’t realize that home fires are the most common disaster across the country and right here in our area, and if you have working smoke alarms, it cuts your risk of death in half,” said Mani.
An annual initiative that has been around since 2014, the Red Cross’s aim is to install 50,000 smoke alarms across the country through the Sound the Alarm campaign events.
Mani said that thousands have already been installed in the 77-county region which she serves, and that they are making their way up to 50,000 alarm installations in Central Appalachia alone. She also said that a total of 110 lives have been saved and verified because the Red Cross and its partners were able to respond to the alarm.
However, Mani said that they couldn’t fulfill such a mission without the various teams of help by their side.
“We couldn’t do this work without both, the generosity of donors and the power of volunteers, through not only our own volunteer base but so many fire departments, and organizations, emergency management, and so many of them are able to be in this room with us today and we are excited to thank them and kick this off so that people pay attention,” she said.
This year’s signature donors for the smoke alarms include Kanawha County Commission, American Electric Power Company, as well as others.
The smoke alarm installations were to take place Wednesday afternoon in apartment buildings on the East End and Kanawha City. Red Cross will also be holding other events in Kanawha County throughout the campaign.
While the organization installs smoke alarms in homes that need them throughout the year, Mani said that they take advantage of the opportunity to have the campaign during this time of year when the weather gets nicer and they can work more effectively.
“At this time of the year, we are constantly making sure that as the weather gets a little better we can put boots on the ground and go door-to-door and make sure homes are safer in our area,” Mani said.
If people need a new smoke alarm in their home and don’t have the means to buy one, they can visit the Red Cross on their website or call a local Red Cross headquarters to obtain one. People can also visit Sound the Alarm to learn more about the annual campaign.
MADISON, W.Va. — The Boone County Commission in a unanimous vote Tuesday agreed to begin the process to seek the removal of Boone County Prosecutor Donna Taylor from office.
The commission agreed on a resolution citing “incompetence and neglect of duty, according to West Virginia Code 6-6-7.”
Commission President Brett Kuhn delivered a statement during the special commission meeting.
“This is not a happy day for Boone County,” Kuhn said. “The report from the Office of Disciplinary Council outlines a dysfunctional prosecutor’s office that endangers every single Boone County citizen.”
According to court documents, Taylor hired her boyfriend to be an assistant prosecutor at a salary of $80,000 a year. She is also accused of failing to prepare nearly 100 orders from abuse and neglect cases, 83 releases of judgment after payments were made in full, and filing insufficient indictments.
Additionally, the charges claim that Taylor violated the rules of professional conduct by, “preparing numerous flawed and legally insufficient charging documents in felony criminal matters.”
Commissioner Jeff Petry also gave a statement Tuesday, saying the more they looked into the allegations, the worse the story got.
“The findings by the ODC, as commissioner Kuhn indicated, are staggering,” Petry said. “One key point in this sticks out to me [in the ODC report]: ‘Ethical violations by a lawyer holding a public office are viewed as more egregious because of the betrayal of the public trust attached to the office.’ That’s the part right there that really drives it home for me.”
Taylor has until April 8 to submit a written response to the court documents. If she fails to do so, it’s ruled as an admission to the allegations outlined in the Statement of Charges.
“As commissioners and elected officials in this office, we have to do what’s right,” said commissioner Petry.
Lastly, Commissioner John Messser vowed that they would be better to all people and organizations involved in the county and who may have been affected by the prosecutor’s actions or lack there of.
“This has to stop,” he said. “Our citizens and communities deserve better. Our law enforcement officers and judicial system deserve better. The victims and their families, more than anyone else, deserve better.”
Messer also added, “In Boone County, there should be a term known as double victimization. It would ensure that no one would be victimized by the same crime twice. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening again and again here because of our current prosecuting attorney.”
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Contractors working for JF Enterprises have filed a building permit to hopefully resolve the flooding issues on Greenbrier Street. They plan to fix a culvert that wasn’t preventing the flooding from happening.
The Kanawha County Commission announced that JF Enterprises, who’s the leaseholder for the Capitol Flea Market located along the street in Charleston, would conduct the work on the culvert.
In November of 2022, the Kanawha County Commission filed a lawsuit against those responsible for the repeated flooding along Greenbrier Street. Extensive rain back on August 15, 2022 started the flooding issues on the street, which damaged multiple properties.
The Kanawha County Office of Planning and Community Development investigated the matter and found that the water was being held back by the collapsed culvert system which is located under the Capital Flea market parking lot.
The culvert will be upgraded from a 36-inch to a 48-inch. JF Enterprises will begin work on the project soon, which is estimated to cost around $105,000.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. –The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs’ has announced the headline performer for the 2023 Juneteenth Celebration is R&B group, Dru Hill.
To honor their 25th anniversary in music, the group will be featuring all of its members, past and present for the performance. This includes founding members SisQo, Nokio, Jazz, and the lastest additions to Dru Hill, Smoke and Black formerly from the R&B group Playa. In addition, former members Scola and Tao will rejoin the group during the celebration.
For over 25 years, the group has sold over 40 million records worldwide, and now, their fan base is continuing to expand.
HHOMA Director, Jill Upson said they are excited for the group to take the stage at the annual event.
“We are so excited to have Dru Hill taking center stage at this special celebration of community. This year’s Juneteenth has something for everyone, and we are proud to showcase all of the West Virginia and national talent everyone will see that evening,” said Upson.
The Juneteenth Celebration works in partnership with FestivALL Charleston to put on the event. This year’s celebration will be held on Saturday, June 17, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the State Capitol Complex.
The event is free to the public and it will include games, prizes, crafts, food vendors, and more.
They can send their completed application to [email protected] no later than May 31. There is a $25 fee for vendors, but nonprofits and state agencies are exempt from the fee.
Registration for vendors and performers, along with the option to make payments are now open on West Virginia Minority Affair’s website.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More travel and tourism opportunities are coming to the Mountain State with the arrival of Breeze Airways.
Governor Jim Justice joined state and Charleston city officials Tuesday to announce West Virginia International Yeager Airport’s new partnership with the low cost carrier that will be connecting flights to five cities over the next two years.
Starting May 31, the airline will offer nonstop, twice-weekly flights to Orlando, Florida year-round, and summer seasonal service to Charleston, South Carolina.
Yeager Airport’s Director and CEO, Dominque Ranieri, said following Tuesday’s announcement that Breeze is an expansion opportunity for everyone involved.
“This is a huge expansion of air service, and it’s so great not only for our residents, but also for all of those people who have not yet experienced Almost Heaven West Virginia that will be able to travel here on an affordable flight very easily, and it just really opens up West Virginia to everyone,” Ranieri said.
“Over the last six years, we’ve spent a lot of time expanding the drive market, we’ve been looking at how we can bring people from further and further away, but today, we’re starting a new day, we’re going to start looking at how we can bring people in on flights,” said Ruby.
Ruby continued to say that it’s not only tourism the new airline service will impact but the state’s infrastructure, as well.
“You may not always think of air service as infrastructure, but it is, and quite honestly it’s one that we have let crumble, it’s one that we haven’t been investing in enough, and today is about continuing to connect West Virginia to the rest of the world,” Ruby added.
Officials from Breeze Airways were also present at Tuesday’s announcement. Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Breeze, Angela Vargo, said that they are excited to be offering service to West Virginia residents.
“We are the absolute most easiest, most affordable way to get from point A to point B, and we think that connecting these great destinations to West Virginia is going to be a huge hit with the residents here.”
After launching two year’s ago following the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when travel was in growing demand, Vargo said that the airline started to grow with it, an opportunity that has been expanding ever since.
“So, we started flying right as the pandemic was coming to a close and people were just dying to get out of their house and onto planes. We started with 16 cities and now we’re at nearly four dozen,” she said.
“It’s exciting to see it grown and it’s exciting that West Virginia wants to grow with us,” said Vargo.
Gov. Justice said direct flights to New York City, the West Coast, and other major travel destinations are slated to be added to Breeze’s service at CRW over the next couple of years.
Tuesday’s announcement follows Spirit Airline’s decision to stop services at Yeager Airport starting on May 4. Nonstop flights to Myrtle Beach and Orlando comprised Spirit’s services at CRW for several years, and Ruby said that the new partnership will help fill the gap.
“We were talking about, ‘how do we replace Orlando? ‘How do we get flights to Orlando?’ and we immediately said, that’s not what we’re here to do, we’re here to find a partner that’s long-term, that’s not going to come in and pull out six months later, we want someone who is going to be here for years and years and is going to help us continue establishing service,” Ruby said.
Breeze Airways was launched by JetBlue Founder and former CEO David Neeleman.
The financial agreement between Breeze, the state, the Kanawha County Commission and the City of Charleston includes a guarantee of usage.
The new routes the airline is starting to offer West Virginia residents is currently on sale for $49 and $59 one way flights. People can now book the flights on Breeze’s website.