Chronic DUI driver, 32, charged in W.Va. crash that killed 5
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A former Allegheny County man with a string of drunken driving arrests has been charged with drunken driving again in an accident outside Morgantown, W.Va., Sunday night that killed five people and critically injured three others.
Brian J. Stone
The calamitous accident on Interstate 68 is the latest incident in a long struggle with alcohol for Brian J. Stone, 32, of Cheat Lake, W.Va., said his father, John.
"He's had his share of problems," John Stone said. "For most of his life, drinking was a problem."
The problems include at least seven drunken driving arrests -- five in West Virginia and two in Pennsylvania -- in the past five years. Brian Stone hasn't had a valid West Virginia driver's license for more than three years because it was revoked after his second drunken driving arrest in Monongalia County.
This is his third DUI arrest in four months. Before the Sunday night crash, Brian Stone was awaiting hearings in Uniontown and Morgantown on DUI charges.
Though he lives with his parents in Cheat Lake, Brian Stone has maintained a mailing address in Gans, Fayette County, for his Pennsylvania driver's license.
Mr. Stone gave his father a version of how the accident occurred that was different from the official version from police.
Investigators from the Monongalia County sheriff's department say Mr. Stone was driving a Ford pickup truck east on I-68 about 10:30 p.m. when his vehicle ran into the back of a Ford Taurus. The collision caused the driver of the Taurus to lose control and cross the median into the westbound lanes, where it struck head on a Chevy TrailBlazer with seven people inside.
Five people died at the scene -- an adult and a child inside the Taurus and an adult and two children inside the TrailBlazer. Six occupants of the two vehicles were hospitalized at Morgantown hospitals, three of them in critical condition.
A sheriff's department spokesman said the names of the victims, all of whom are from outside West Virginia, would not be released until the families were notified.
During a telephone call to his father yesterday morning, Brian Stone said he was driving up the entrance ramp at the Pierpont Road interchange onto eastbound I-68 when his pickup truck was rear-ended by a car and he lost control of his vehicle, John Stone said. Police found an uninjured Brian Stone in the woods near the accident scene after the collision.
He was charged with five counts of driving under the influence causing death and one count of driving under the influence by a driver with three or more DUI offenses. He was held under a total bond of $1.35 million at the North Central Regional Jail, about 20 miles southwest of Clarksburg, W.Va., pending a hearing July 19.
Mr. Stone has battled problems with alcohol since he was a teenager, John Stone said. All of his arrests, which have included charges of battery on a police officer and leaving the scenes of accidents, have been the result of drinking, his father said.
A 1992 graduate of University High School in Morgantown, Brian Stone went to technical schools for welding and electronics after graduating, but has not used the electronics training much, John Stone said. Brian Stone used the welding knowledge occasionally, most recently last year when he worked for an Armstrong County company on a construction project near Martinsburg, W.Va., his father said.
From 2001 to 2004, he lived in North Versailles while he worked at U.S. Steel's Edgar Thomson plant in Braddock. Mr. Stone lost that job after he took a leave of absence to seek alcohol rehabilitation counseling and was not permitted to return to his job afterward, his father said.
Mr. Stone's Pennsylvania driver's license was suspended for an Allegheny County drunken driving arrest while he worked in Braddock, so he was forced to make his way to work on a bicycle, John Stone said.
Lately, Brian Stone has been working as a laborer at Allegheny Energy's Fort Martin Power Station near Morgantown for Local 379 of the Laborers International Union.
Attempts at rehabilitation have been followed by brief periods of sobriety, but Brian Stone has always gone back to drinking, his father said. John Stone has attempted on a number of occasions to persuade judges and other court officials to intervene in his son's drunken driving cases so he could seek help for his problem, but those attempts were usually rebuffed.
"He would stay sober and drink, always back and forth," John Stone said. "I begged for counseling, but they just ignored it."
On Sunday afternoon, Brian Stone went to the Cheat Lake recreational area, but never returned home. John Stone said he was worried about his son yesterday morning, but suspected he might have been involved in the I-68 crash when he heard the first reports that a pickup truck was involved.
John Stone began calling police and local hospitals and finally confirmed at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown that Brian had been treated and released after the accident.
"I was pretty much interested in how he was doing because nobody called me," Mr. Stone said. "The only information I could get was at the hospital because that's the only place that would give me any information at all."
A few hours later, Brian called his father from police custody after his arraignment and told him about the accident. John Stone said he is concerned for the families of the victims.
"How tragic," he said. "My heart goes out to them."
First Published July 9, 2007 11:41 pm