Three fatalities: Traffic deaths unrelated
Albemarle hasn't had any fatalities all year– and then within three days, three men are dead from crashes on county roads.
"All three of these are very different, with much different dynamics," says Sergeant Sean Hackney with Albemarle County Police. He's investigated over 100 fatal crashes during his career and says there are three common factors in most fatalities: speed, alcohol, and lack of seatbelts.
Gary Meeks, 59, a carpenter, was driving his 2001 truck on Scottsville Road March 27 when he went off the road around 6:20pm, hit a tree, and the Chevy he was driving burst into flames. Meeks died of blunt force trauma at the scene, say police, and he was not wearing a seatbelt.
"We don't have any indication that he was speeding, weaving, or swerving, no indication of narcotics," says Hackney. "By all accounts, he was driving along normally."
His fiancée, Joanne Peregoy, says the medical examiner said Meeks had a blood clot that caused a heart attack and made him run off the road. "I'm glad he didn't suffer," she says.
Peregoy describes Meeks as living and breathing fishing. "He always had a smile on his face," she says. "He was always happy-go-lucky."
Former Scottsville Rescue Squad volunteer Andrew Curt Lawhorne, 26, known as Curt, was on Irish Road in southern Albemarle County at 3:51pm Friday, March 29, when he had the misfortune to cross paths with Jerry Christopher Johnson, 47, of Esmont. Johnson, traveling east in his 2002 GMC Sierra pickup, was allegedly speeding when he crossed the double-yellow center line and hit Lawhorne's 2002 Chevy Malibu head-on, say police.
Lawhorne, who'd lived in Schuyler his entire life and worked at Yellow Cab, died at the scene. "Looks like he was getting off work and heading home," says Hackney.
Yellow Cab owner Mark Brown says Lawhorne was very ambitious and had just purchased his own cab from Brown. "He was really going places," says Brown. "This is unbelievable to me. That person ought to get life in prison."
Johnson was flown to UVA Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries and was charged with driving under the influence. "We're still investigating the actions of the driver prior to the crash," says Hackney. "There could be other charges."
Johnson was convicted of DWI in Charlottesville in 2011. In the Irish Road accident, neither man was wearing a seatbelt, say police.
"Everybody here loved Curt," says a Schuyler resident who declined to be identified.
Four hours after Lawhorne died, across the county in Crozet, Carroll Herring, 71, was checking his mailbox on U.S. 250 across from the Cory Farm subdivision when he was hit by one vehicle and run over by another, neither of which stopped.
Police caught up with one of the vehicles and are still searching for a white Saab with moderate front end damage.
"Some of the physical evidence we're holding close to the vest," says Hackney. "We were all over Crozet today." The Saab is a "pretty exotic" vehicle, he points out, and police are getting tips.
He did release a disturbing detail from a witness– that after Herring was hit and lying in the road, "people were swerving around him and not stopping," says Hackney. "That's alarming."
Herring, who'd worked for the Acme Visible Records in Crozet for 39 years and was currently employed with Albemarle Parks and Recreation, enjoyed gardening and watching his grandchildren play baseball, according to his obituary, which also notes that Herring was a star baseball player at Albemarle High, where he graduated in 1961.
He died within sight of Harris Teeter, the same stretch of road where 15-year-old skateboarder Yunze Sun died in 2011.
That part of Rockfish Gap Turnpike is also the scene of one of Albemarle's oldest unsolved hit-and-runs. Fifty years ago in March 1963, 19-year-old Pat Akins allegedly was struck by a speeding Triumph near the current location of Blue Ridge Builders Supply. His body turned up 12 miles away on UVA grounds under the sports car. Some were skeptical that he could have been dragged that far, and the owner of the Triumph said the car had been stolen. No charges were ever filed.
Hackney urges anyone with information on the March 26 hit-and-run to call Crimestoppers at 977-4000.Read more on: traffic fatalities