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5 dead in crash en route to football title game

Five people are dead, including two teenagers, after a two-vehicle crash in Jackson County Saturday morning, the West Virginia State Police said.

Just before 8:30 Saturday an SUV traveling north on Interstate 77, just north of Ripley, lost control on wet pavement and veered into the median, State Police spokesman Michael Baylous said in a news release. The vehicle crashed through a cable median and into southbound traffic, Baylous said. A GMC truck traveling south hit the broadside of the SUV causing it to catch fire, he said.

Five of the six people in the SUV were killed. The sixth person and the driver of the truck were taken to Charleston Area Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries, Baylous said.

The State Police identified the victims of the crash, all from Charleston, as: Vivian Easton, 46; Devon Easton Badger, 15; Walter Taylor, 48; Tahj Claiborne, 14, and Wallace Worrell, 50.

“It is believed that weather played a contributing factor,” Baylous wrote.

The accident was at the 143 mile marker, an emergency dispatcher said.

It appears the crash involved Kanawha County high school students and family members. Pete Thaw, a member of the county school board, said he was notified of the accident by Superintendent Ron Duerring.

“Dr. Duerring called me and said there had been a terrible accident, he said there was a number of students involved,” Thaw said. “It was somewhere between here and Wheeling.”

Thaw said that Duerring told him the deceased included the parents and the brother of a South Charleston High School cheerleader. They were on their way to Wheeling to watch their daughter at the Class AAA championship football game, between South Charleston and Capital High School, Thaw said.

“They took her off the field and told her, because it got out,” Thaw said. “They didn’t want her to pick it up that way, it’s just a terribly sad thing.”

The West Virginia State Police is investigating.

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.

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