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Trooper: Wreck was 'perfect storm'

Thursday, April 19, 2012

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

“It was a perfect storm.”

That’s how Trooper Noah Knight of the Virginia State Police described the circumstances surrounding a fatal traffic accident Tuesday at Patrick Henry Community College.

George Lee Marlowe, 75, of Martinsville, was pronounced dead at Memorial Hospital in Martinsville, according to Virginia State Police Sgt. Robert Carpentieri and a news release from the state police.

Marlowe had worked for the college for 12 years, PHCC Public Relations Director Kris Landrum has said.

Knight said Wednesday that Marlowe was driving a 2001 or 2002 Toro Z master model lawn mower east on Route 371 (Patriot Avenue) about 8:25 a.m. Tuesday on the way to do some mowing. The mower was traveling about 5-7 mph in a curve to the right at the top of a hillcrest when it was struck from behind by a 1988 Honda Accord driven by a PHCC student from Bassett, Knight said.

He said woods blocked the driver’s view of the curve until the mower was in front of her, and the “sun was so blinding ... right there you can’t see the road or nothing. She didn’t have a chance of seeing that lawn mower ... .”

“Everything lined up to be a bad accident,” the trooper added.

Knight estimated the Accord was traveling no more than the 25 mph speed limit. The right front headlight of the Accord struck the left rear of the mower, and Marlowe was knocked off the mower, Knight said.

He said he was still investigating the incident, and no charges had been filed. “I’ve left it to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office” to decide whether charges will be filed, Knight said.

No attorneys in that office were available for comment Wednesday because they were attending an out-of-town conference.

Knight said he talked to 30-40 people on campus, and many of them complained about the blinding sun on that stretch of road during certain times. He advises motorists to slow down and be aware of surroundings.

Landrum on Wednesday acknowledged that the sun is blinding at certain times of the year and at certain times of the day.

“But the bright sun can be an issue on any road at certain times of the year and certain times of the day. We acknowledge that’s a problem and are looking to see if anything can be done about that,” she added.

“The college has been out here since 1969, and we have not had an accident” dealing with the bright sunlight until Tuesday that she is aware of, she said.

If someone has a solution, the college will consider it, she said.


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