Driver survives Rt. 2 wreck, dies later

BELMONT, W.Va.- An Ohio man who died after he apparently walked away from an accident on West Virginia 2 was identified late Thursday afternoon.

Ben Gabriel, 39, whose last known address was a camper in Shade, Ohio, was found about a quarter mile from the accident, near the former Silver Spur on Route 2, 1st Sgt. B.S. Snodgrass said. Investigators contacted his next of kin late Thursday afternoon.

Gabriel’s body was sent to the West Virginia Medical Examiner for an autopsy to determine the cause of death, whether it was from being struck by another car or from injuries sustained in the accident. He was either hit by a car or died from the injuries sustained when his car went over an embankment and struck a tree head on, Snodgrass said.

A release from the State Police headquarters in Charleston said Gabriel received fatal injuries from the apparent hit and run.

The accident happened overnight Wednesday or early Thursday, Snodgrass said. The car, traveling north, went over an embankment of about 40 to 50 feet, he said.

He apparently got out of the car or was thrown from the vehicle, managed to climb up the embankment and started walking south on Route 2 toward Parkersburg, Snodgrass said. After he got out of the vehicle and started walking away, the car caught fire, he said.

Gabriel’s body, found about a quarter mile away along the road, had signs of road rash, indicating he could have been struck by a car, Snodgrass said.

“That was the initial thought,” he said.

He was found and reported to authorities around 8 a.m. His wallet and his identification were on him and it matched the license and registration of the vehicle, a 1995 Buick LeSabre, Snodgrass said.

The car was so far down the embankment, and because of the fog, that the vehicle could have been seen by passing motorists, Snodgrass said. Several homes are in the area and investigators are asking residents if they saw anything, he said.

Investigators are also trying to determine what Gabriel was doing in the area, Snodgrass said.

Route 2 was closed most of the day and traffic was detoured on Oak Grove Road while the State Police accident and crime reconstruction teams investigated. State Police, the sheriff and local fire departments responded.

The road reopened late Thursday afternoon.

The accident is being investigated by Cpl. C. M. Snodgrass, the first sergeant’s brother, of the St. Marys Detachment.