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West Virginia farm worker dies in U.S. 35 tractor crash

No one disputes West Virginia farm work is hard work, but the occupation also can be dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 476 farm workers' deaths in 2010, among 1.8 million farmers or farm employees nationwide. The top reason for fatal injuries was tractor rollovers, including those caused by car collisions.

A 14.6-mile section of U.S. 35 in Putnam and Mason counties is a two-lane road. Local residents and government officials have been hoping to upgrade the highway, but financing has been a problem. Debates focused on the use of public or private funding and tolls or no tolls have delayed the proposed project, which some parties feel have cost lives.

A recent crash in Southside on the disputed two-lane portion of the highway claimed the life of a farm tractor driver. West Virginia State Police reported the victim died after the tractor was hit by a car and rolled over. Officials faulted the driver of car for speeding in a no-passing zone.

Neither the victim nor the driver was identified, although police stated the car driver was flown to a trauma center. Reports didn't say what injuries the driver suffered or confirm a medical status. An accident reconstruction team is being used to determine how the crash occurred.

WSAZ-TV reported in October that state transportation officials were searching actively for ways to transform the two-lane section of U.S. 35 into a four-lane highway. The state hoped to add tolls to cover the costs of the $187 million road construction project, a proposal rejected at the county level. Funding without the use of tolls may be available under a new state law that permits private funding for public road projects, although nothing has been decided.

Blame for car accidents may go beyond a driver. Governments also can be liable in personal injury and wrongful death cases for failing to address dangerous road conditions.

Source:  My Daily Tribune, "Deadly crash on US 35 claims one life" Beth Sergent, Apr. 02, 2014

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