Repairs To Begin on Northampton High School Auditorium Walls

By Stefanie Jackson –The Northampton school board chose a local contractor to repair the badly damaged exterior walls of the Northampton High School auditorium in a unanimous decision Nov. 29. The contract was awarded to Jim Wert Builder Inc., of Belle Haven.

The local contractor submitted the low bid of $49,271. Conrad Brothers Inc., of Chesapeake, Va., which previously had done similar work on the high school cafeteria, submitted a bid of $59,888.

Northampton schools Director of Operations Chris Truckner was initially concerned about the $10,000 gap between the two bids received, but after further discussion of the work with a representative of Jim Wert Builder, Truckner recommended accepting the local contractor’s bid.

Both bids were low in Truckner’s opinion. He suspects that after the project is begun, workers will discover further damage that needs attention, which was the case when the cafeteria walls were repaired about three years ago.

Truckner is staying “open-minded” about how much work the auditorium will need. The contractors are “being realistic and have black and white plans in front of them,” but “once they get in there and start removing the veneer, that’s when we’re going to find out the unforeseen,” he said.

When the cafeteria wall repairs were started, after the veneers were removed “we found out that there was over nine-and-a-half inches of movement in the top corner and cracks you could stick your arm through,” Truckner said.

The demolition portion of the auditorium project will take place during Christmas break or on weekends when no students or staff are present on school property in case of a “catastrophic failure.”

In light of Truckner’s suspicions, Northampton schools Chief Financial Officer Brook Thomas made the unconventional decision to build a 50 percent contingency into the project cost. (Most construction projects include a contingency of 5 to 10 percent of the total cost to cover unforeseen expenses that may be incurred during the course of work.)

Thomas proposed transferring the $65,116 left from the cafeteria project to the auditorium project and appropriating an additional $33,426 for a total school budget appropriation of $98,542, exactly double the bid submitted by Jim Wert Builder.

Thomas’ intent is to avoid a delay such as stopping work during the two-week Christmas break for an emergency school board meeting to authorize more funds if additional necessary repairs are discovered after the work is begun.

However, “I can guarantee you that the final scope of this project is going to be far greater than $98,000,” Thomas said.

Truckner warned that the metal roof decking over the auditorium is corroded and rotted, and it will be “completely destroyed” and need to be replaced by the time the wall repairs are completed. The roofing just outside of the auditorium project area will also be affected.

Making only the immediately necessary roof repairs will cost about $200,000 as opposed to $700,000 or $800,000, Truckner said.

Audio Recordings

School board member Nancy Proto made a motion suggesting audio recordings of the school board’s public meetings should be made available on BoardDocs, the website used by Northampton schools and many other organizations to store and manage meeting agendas, minutes, and other documents.

Proto, an at-large school board member and resident of Cape Charles, says several citizens in her jurisdiction have requested audio recordings of school board meetings because they can’t attend due to work or family obligations.

They also complained that school board meeting minutes are often not completed and not posted on BoardDocs until a month or two after the meeting and the minutes are difficult to locate on the website.

Proto envisioned an inexpensive solution – posting the simple audio recordings that Executive Secretary Karen Pitt makes and uses when compiling meeting minutes.

Superintendent Eddie Lawrence said if the school board would make audio recordings of its meetings available to the public, it should be done right. An audio recording system with nine or 10 microphones for use by school board members, the superintendent, and citizens making public comments is priced at $3,500 to $4,000 – a prohibitive cost.

School board Chairman William Oakley said he didn’t know if it was necessary “to react to a small group” and he would be more apt to support Proto’s idea if there was a large group backing it.

School board member Randy Parks was concerned that the knowledge of being recorded might “diminish” the “spontaneity among us.”

“I don’t mind saying something stupid in front of you guys, but maybe if the whole world could be listening I will be, you know, less spontaneous,” he said.

Proto’s motion was not seconded and there was no further discussion of the matter.

Cheriton Appoints Hardesty to Open Council Seat

By Stefanie Jackson — The Cheriton town council determined in late October it would appoint a new council member at its next regular
meeting on Nov. 28, but by that date, the open seat had already been filled by Greg Hardesty, who had previous experience on the council. Hardesty replaces former Councilman Wesley Travis, who resigned on Sept. 26, citing his disapproval of the manner in which the council handled the firing of Cheriton Police Chief Marc Marshall.
According to Virginia law, a special election must be held for the open council seat, but the council may appoint someone to fill the seat until the
special election is held. Cheriton Mayor Larry LeMond noted that arranging special elections is costly, and he requested that Cheriton’s special election coincide with the next general election on Nov. 5, 2019, to reduce the cost to the town.
Cheriton’s May election cost $1,900, LeMond said, but holding a special election at the same time as a general election would only cost $200 to $300.
Northampton circuit court judge, Hon. W. Revell Lewis III, informed LeMond he would only consider the request if the town met the legal requirement to appoint an interim council member within 45 days of the previous council member’s resignation, making Nov. 10 the deadline. The council was compelled to make the appointment three weeks earlier than they planned.
Jason Van Marter was the first candidate to speak at the Nov. 7 special meeting. He is fairly new to Cheriton, but he has been associated with the
town for 13 years through family. Van Marter mentioned the town motto, “Small Town, Big Heart” and said, “I can offer some fresh ideas to help fill that vision … and, hopefully, make some changes that can help us grow into the future that is pounding on the Shore’s doorstep.”
“If elected, I’ll do my best to help out with the town; if not elected, I’ll still be the same,” he said. Neither Scott Berger nor Hardesty was able to attend the meeting, but Town Clerk Stacey Salenski read their comments into the public record. Berger said the “two primary driving forces in my life” are “to solve problems and to help others,” the reasons for his 25-year career as an architect designing buildings for the military.
Berger and his family “are come-heres, but that means we have a choice and we chose Cheriton.”
Hardesty indicated the “extensive roots” he put down in Cheriton in 1977 at age 14. The Northampton High School graduate worked in various jobs across the Bay before returning to Cheriton 12 years ago. He now works in aquaculture.
Hardesty served two previous terms on the town council and volunteered for the Cheriton fire department. Bruce Nutter withdrew his candidacy
but volunteered his advice to the town council: “bring some diversity in, like younger people that have a level head on their shoulders.”
Only 25 percent of Cheriton’s population is age 62 or older, Nutter said, and younger citizens like himself “feel pushed out, and we don’t
feel like we’re being represented very well.”
“That’s why all the anger is coming through the community,” Nutter continued. “This is an emotional thing for all of us because we love the town so much.”
Councilman Barry Downing said he does not object to young people serving on the council, but it would be fair to choose the candidate who had the most votes at the May election – Hardesty.
Downing nominated Hardesty, seconded by Councilwoman Norma Spencer. Councilwoman Jackie Davis nominated Van Marter, pointing out that
he participates in every council meeting. Downing seconded that motion. Hardesty won in a 3-1 vote. Van Marter plans to run for the
Cheriton town council in the special election expected to be held in November.

Islanders and Others Grieve Another Chincoteague Pony Death From ‘Swamp Cancer’

By Linda Cicoira — Messages of support and grief from across the country were posted on the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s Facebook page this week in response to an announcement that another member of the famous herd of wild ponies died Monday from swamp cancer or pythiosis, a fungal infection.
“Last week I told you all that we weren’t out of the woods yet,” a fire company representative wrote. “Well, today, precious little Rain Dancer galloped over the rainbow bridge. This baby just couldn’t kick it and developed some ligament and tendon issues related to this disease. The buyback
owners have been notified and again, we ask for your patience and support in this matter. Our vet has been up here every other day and of course, our great team of cowboys has basically put their lives on hold attending to these ponies.”
The comments noted the firefighters’ relentless commitment to the ponies. The swamp infection occurs in a wound or cut when the animals stand in water that has pathogens. Areas that don’t have harsh winters are more likely to see problems because the water there doesn’t freeze.
Five other ponies are continuing to recover from the infection.

Onley Fire Co. Sells Real Estate For One-Third of Assessed Value

By Linda Cicoira — The Onley firehouse and five surrounding properties were sold last week for $100,000, or just under a third of the assessed value. The move was a final step in settling the assets of the former fire company dissolved by the Accomack Board of Supervisors in July 2017 for not providing services.

A deed filed in Accomack Circuit Court showed the property at 25489 Maple St. in Onley was purchased by Ronnie Lescallette, of Exmore. Lescallette was not available for comment about his plans for the properties by press time Thursday.

Last January, an ambulance, the chief’s car, and a heavy rescue truck were picked up by the finance company, at the request of Royal Governor, president of the former Onley Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co. Inc.

At that time, Governor said the vehicles would be sold to pay off the debt on them. There was $21,000 owed on the ambulance and car. He was hoping the sale would be enough to persuade the finance company to write off the rest. About $68,000 was owed for the heavy rescue truck, which was valued at about $120,000. The truck was 26 years old. “They might write it off” as well, he said.

Tuesday Governor was reached by phone but could not speculate about what Lescallette was planning. The president was asked about the remaining debt and stated, “I’m working on those numbers now” with an attorney.

When the company was dissolved, the ambulance needed repair, a dispute with a former chief caused the operational medical director (OMD) to resign, and the fire engine had no tags or title because it was purchased from New York, where those things are not required.

All hope of rekindling the unit disappeared for volunteers who planned to fight for more time to get reorganized when the supervisors took action.

County Assessor Brent Hurdle said the total assessed value of the six parcels was $307,900. The value of the firehouse and lot was $295,700.

County Administrator Mike Mason said Monday when the supervisors voted to dissolve, the company’s board of directors was directed to “wind up” the organization which they are legally required to do anyway.

The last financial statements the county received before that were in June 30, 2016. “According to this information, they owed over $200,000 which was tied to two notes payable,” Mason said.

Also among the reasons cited for closing the station were: a member was convicted in 2014 of embezzling money from the company, there was another conviction of a member who set a truck ablaze in 2016, and a former chief’s report said the company would close in early 2017. The hospital’s move to Onley also had an impact on the need for service in the area.

Mold Found at Chincoteague High School Requires Professional Cleanup

By Stefanie Jackson — At Chincoteague High School, two rooms inspected earlier this month were found to have elevated levels of mold and required professional cleaning.

Room D6 contained a 3,147 count of penicillium/aspergillus per cubic meter and Room D9 had an 11,147 count of penicillium/aspergillus per cubic meter, both “elevated levels” of mold, the environmental report stated.

The concentration of mold in the air is measured by the number of colony-forming units (cfu) in one cubic meter of air.

According to the World Health Organization, a concentration of mold up to 499 cfu per cubic meter is low, between 500 and 999 cfu per cubic meter is moderate, and 1000 or more cfu per cubic meter is high.

Each of the four rooms tested had higher concentrations of penicillium/aspergillus than any other mold.

The other two rooms, D5 and B12, contained a 453 count of penicillium/aspergillus per cubic meter and a 640 count of penicillium/aspergillus per cubic meter, respectively, within the low to moderate range. Those rooms were deemed “acceptable with no further cleaning required.”

Accomack County Public Schools Director of Operations Mike Tolbert reported that a qualified contractor completed the cleanup on Nov. 12.

Sussex Environmental Consultants, of Lewes, Del., was contracted to conduct the mold and moisture evaluation.

Four rooms were tested for mold in response to concerns about previous issues with humidity in those areas.

The environmental company collected air samples and sent them to Aerobiology Laboratories of Dulles, Va. The samples were examined under a microscope and up to nine types of mold or fungal particles were identified.

The molds detected were airborne particles such as spores, not surface molds that are visible to the naked eye.

Penicillium and aspergillus are often categorized together because their spores are indistinguishable without knowing their source.

Sussex Environmental Consultants recommended cleaning the rooms using a HEPA filtered air scrubber and having the air ducts in the rooms professionally cleaned by a company belonging to the National Air Duct Cleaning Association.

The company also recommended retesting the affected areas after cleaning to ensure the mold levels had been reduced.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor humidity levels should be kept below 60 percent to discourage mold growth, and between 30 percent and 50 percent humidity is ideal.

No molds other than penicillium/aspergillus were detected at elevated levels. The next largest amount of mold particles found were low to moderate levels of basidiospores, spores produced by mushrooms and other common fungi.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common health issues associated with mold are allergies. A person who is allergic to mold can develop the same symptoms associated with other upper respiratory allergies, including sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, postnasal drip, coughing, watery or itchy eyes, itchy nose and throat, and dry, scaly skin.

Mold can trigger an asthma attack in people who have both mold allergies and asthma.

In some cases, mold exposure can cause an infection of the mucous membranes or skin.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) cites inhaling aspergillus spores as a cause of a condition called aspergillosis. A person with a weak immune system or a chronic lung illness is more likely to develop aspergillosis.

None of the molds detected at the high school was related to stachybotrys chartarum, a black mold that can produce toxins that may cause rare health conditions.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that “toxic mold” is a misnomer because mold itself is not toxic and the relationship between toxin-producing molds and certain health conditions is unproven.

Accomack schools Superintendent Chris Holland said the issues at Chincoteague High School will continue to be addressed and the health and safety of students and staff is a top priority.

Army Corps Of Engineers Seeks Comment on Plan To Restore Wallops Shoreline

By Linda Cicoira — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted a notice Monday soliciting public comment regarding the proposed dredging and excavating in the ocean at Wallops Island aimed at reducing potential storm damage or loss to assets of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the Navy, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

The applicant, NASA, proposes to use “dredge material to nourish the shoreline.” Six rubble mound breakwaters would be installed to restore the shoreline to pre-Hurricane Sandy conditions. “Restoration is necessary as the existing seawall is being undermined due to little or no protective sand beach remaining in the proposed work area,” the notice stated.

An estimated 1.3 million cubic yards of sand would be placed along about 19,850 feet of shoreline. “The beach fill material will come from excavating and performing minor dredging at the north Wallops Island beach.”

The proposal involves dredging 37,515 cubic yards of sand from the north-end of Wallops Island and would impact 31 acres of land seaward of mean high water, the notice continued. This and material excavated from uplands will be used to re-nourish. About 140 acres of subaqueous bottom seaward of mean high water will be involved. The breakwaters would be placed seaward of mean low water and would impact 1.64 acres of the subaqueous bottom. “No mitigation is proposed for the impacts to subaqueous bottom.”

A pan excavator would remove sand from about “200 acres of the beach to the mean low water line. The average excavation depth is 2.35 feet. Sand will be stockpiled and then loaded onto dump trucks for transport on existing roads to the southern end of the island. Bulldozers will be used to spread the fill material once it is placed on the beach. All heavy equipment will access the beach from existing roads and established access points. No new temporary or permanent roads will be constructed to access the beach or to transport the fill material to re-nourishment areas.”

The beach fill will start about 1,500 feet north of the Wallops Island-Assawoman Island boundary and extend north for about 3.7 miles, the notice continued. The initial fill will form a 6-foot-high berm extending a minimum of 70 feet seaward of the existing seawall. The remaining fill will slope seaward with varying distances.

The breakwaters would be constructed in two equal sets about 200 feet offshore from the mean high water line of the re-nourished beach … Each breakwater will be constructed of VDOT-type I armor stone for the outer layer and Class II Stone for the core. The stone would be placed parallel to the shore and will measure approximately 130 feet long and 10 feet wide at top crest elevation. The breakwaters will be placed approximately 100 feet apart. Water depths in these areas are approximately 4 to 8 feet. The southernmost breakwaters will be constructed about 4,000 feet north of the southern extent of beach nourishment. The second breakwaters will be put about 10,000 feet north of the southern extent of beach nourishment. The rocks for would be brought to the Wallops Flight Facility by rail and then trucked to the site. It would then be loaded onto barges and placed.

American beach grass would be planted at 18-inch intervals over the re-established dune between Oct. 1 and March 31.

A hearing could be requested. A preliminary review indicates “no environmental impact statement will be required.” But NASA consulted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding potential effects on Endangered Species Act listed birds and sea turtles that could be affected by the project and the two agencies “developed … mitigation measures to reduce the probability and intensity of potential effects.”

They propose no work will be conducted in the borrow area at the north end of the island during plover or turtle nesting from April to September. NASA would employ a biological monitor to survey the project site on a daily basis should work occur during those months and promised to educate all workers in the construction area on recognizing protected species and their habitat. From March to September NASA surveys the island for plover, red knot and sea turtle activity as part of its Natural Resources Management Program. “Any nests discovered are identified” with signs. Staff “provide outreach to beach users, including security staff and recreational users.”

NASA also consulted with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources regarding the project. “The inadvertent discovery of any previously unidentified archaeological resources would result in immediate cessation of work and notification of the Wallops Flight Facility Cultural Resources Manager.” NASA also consulted with NOAA regarding potential effects on listed marine mammals, fish, and in-water sea turtles.

Written comments may be sent to, or to Norfolk District, Corps of Engineers (ATTN: CENAO-WR-R), 803 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510-1011. The deadline is Dec. 26.

Northam Declines to Reappoint Shore Representative to Water Board

By Linda Cicoira — There is no longer a resident of the Eastern Shore on the State Water Control Board.

Gov. Ralph Northam appointed Paula Hill Jasinski, of Richmond, president of Chesapeake Environmental Communications and Green Fin Studio, and James Lofton, of Greene County, assistant chief counsel for airports and environmental law for the Federal Aviation Administration, to the water board Friday.

The governor, a native of the Onancock area, did not reappoint Roberta Kellam, of Franktown, who sought to retain and was eligible to continue serving. She said she was supported by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Kellam voted “no” on key permits related to the Dominion Coast’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline and supported revoking certifications for the pipelines earlier this year.

She was notified Thursday that Northam would not reappoint her. Kellam, whose appointment expired in May, said it was not typical for appointments to take this long. “My prior two appointments were timely.”

Two members of the Air Pollution Control Board were also not reappointed. Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher, whose terms also ended in June, were not put back on that board, which had postponed a vote until next month for the pipeline compressor station.

Kellam said on Facebook “no reason” was given for the change. “I’d rather not say,” she answered when asked about it Saturday. But farther down in her posts she said it was because she voted against Dominion.

“I would like to say how much of an honor it has been to serve the commonwealth for two terms, plus hold-over months, on (the) SWCB, and I thank former Governors (Tim) Kaine and (Terry) McAuliffe for giving me the opportunity to serve,” she posted on Facebook. “I would like to thank the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) leadership, DEQ staff, and my fellow board members for their hard work and friendship. I would also like to thank all members of the public who write letters, attend public hearings, and otherwise let the decision-makers know how a government decision could impact the waters of the commonwealth. Let us never take the water for granted and always strive to protect it for future generations.”

“The governor is exercising his statutory authority to appoint members of his choosing to these board seats,” Northam’s representative said.

Scores of local “friends” voiced their displeasure on Kellam’s Facebook site.

“What a loss for the Shore,” wrote Donna Bozza of Citizens For a Better Eastern Shore (CBES). “Thanks for serving on this Board, Roberta. You gave it your all.”

“Disappointing news for the ESVA (Eastern Shore of Virginia),” wrote Clarice Bartel MacGarvey, also of Franktown. “Thanks for all you do for the Shore.”

Barry Truitt, of Machipongo, wrote to thank Kellam for her service. “We do need a Shore person on this board.”

Janet Sturgis, a member of the Northampton Planning Commission who attends all the Eastern Shore Groundwater Committee meetings, also voiced her disappointment with the governor’s decision. “The gloves are now off in the fight over protecting and conserving ESVA ground and surface waters.”

Maureen Dooley, a local Democrat, posted, “This is the first time a decision made by the governor is less than forthright. I am correct in writing that he shed the votes that would go against the pipeline. He had stated that he trusted the decision of the advisers. When the decision was not to his liking, he shed the advisers. Am I misreading this? I hope I am.”

Edward S. Brinkley, of Cape Charles, wrote, “They only want industry puppets and shills. Northam was once better than this.”

“It is still shocking to me that he threw me under the bus,” Kellam answered.

“That is a huge disappointment and a loss for the Shore and the SWCB,” wrote Martina Coker, of Cape Charles.

Richard Ayers, of Exmore, wrote, “We were glad to have (had) your voice on the board for those many years. It’s the state’s loss in not reappointing you.”

Expanded Watermen’s Museum Set to Re-Open After Thanksgiving

By Connie Morrison — The Eastern Shore Watermen’s Museum and Research Center in Onancock is about ready to reopen after being closed for almost a year.

The museum opened in 2013, and even then museum director Paul Ewell knew he had more exhibits than space.

“Watermen are hoarders,” he said, adding he had 4-5 storage units plus houses in Justisville and Virginia Beach stuffed full of memorabilia.

When the Historic Onancock School offered the museum a much larger space for only slightly more cost, the museum jumped at the chance, even though the board members have had to carry out some renovations on the space.

He fears it’s not just the public that is losing touch with the Shore’s maritime heritage. “Watermen nowadays don’t know what some of this stuff is,” he said.

In addition to the exhibits, Ewell said the museum has almost 90,000 digital photos, and has digitized locations of old crab houses and railways (railroad ties that run to the water and onto which boats are pulled. They function like small dry docks.)

Ewell has documented more than 400 sailing vessels built on the Eastern Shore, including more than 100 schooners. “The Ida May skipjack, which continues to win races, was built in Deep Creek,” Ewell said.

The museum will eventually host a research area where people can look up locations and vessels.

Ewell traces his own love for boats back to his love for his grandmother who regaled him with stories about the Rew Brothers. To her, “It was just an old oyster boat,” but it was central to so many family stories, said Ewell.

He finally tracked down the skipjack with the help of local historian Miles Barnes. Connecting with that piece of family history was felt so profoundly, Ewell thought others might react similarly. That was his motivation behind founding the museum.

The museum is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and other times by appointment. Appointments can be made by calling 757-665-5771.

The museum also has a Facebook page (Eastern Shore Watermen’s Museum and Research Center).

“Facebook is a great research tool,” said Ewell. “We’ll post a photo and people start to comment” about who owned it and when.

Antares Launch Takes Supplies And Research to Space Station

By Linda Cicoira — Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived on schedule Monday at the International Space Station carrying about 7,400 pounds of cargo that was launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility late last week.

The rocket was loaded with science and research, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware. It was the company’s 10th cargo delivery flight.

Expedition 57 astronauts Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency used the space station’s robotic arm to secure Cygnus at 5:28 a.m.

The cargo will support dozens of new and existing investigations as Expeditions 57 and 58 contribute to about 250 science and research studies. Highlights include a demonstration of 3D printing and recycling technology and simulating the creation of celestial bodies from stardust.

“The Refabricator is the first-ever 3D printer and recycler integrated into one user-friendly machine,” according to a NASA report. “Once it’s installed in the space station, it will demonstrate recycling of waste plastic and previously 3D printed parts already on-board into high-quality filament — 3D printer ink. This recycled filament will then be fed into the printer to make new tools and parts on-demand in space. This technology could enable closed-loop, sustainable fabrication, repair, and recycling on long-duration space missions, and greatly reduce the need to continually launch large supplies of new material and parts for repairs and maintenance.”

“The Experimental Chondrule Formation will explore how planets, moons and other objects in space formed by simulating the high-energy, low-gravity conditions that were present during formation of the early solar system,” the report continued. “Scientists plan to zap a specially formulated dust with an electrical current, and then study the shape and texture of the resulting pellets.”

Another project “grows large crystals of an important protein, leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 in microgravity for analysis back on Earth. This protein is implicated in the development of Parkinson’s disease. Knowledge of its structure may help scientists better understand the pathology of the disease and develop therapies to treat it. The … crystals grown in gravity are too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of the research.”

The Cygnus spacecraft will remain at the space station until February before its destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, disposing of several thousand pounds of trash. “This is the seventh flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft, and the fourth using Northrop Grumman’s upgraded Antares 230 launch vehicle featuring new RD-181 engines that provide increased performance and flexibility.”

The spacecraft for this mission was named in memory of astronaut John Young, who was selected for NASA’s second astronaut class and flew during the Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs. He walked on the Moon during Apollo 16 in 1972. And he commanded the first space shuttle mission in 1981.

For more information about the ISS, visit

Truck Driver in Fatal Bridge-Tunnel Crash Had Drugs and Alcohol in His System

By Stefanie Jackson — The truck driver who died after his tractor-trailer went over the side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel nearly four months ago had alcohol and drugs in his system at the time of the crash, an autopsy report recently revealed.

Jervone Hall, 33, of Millsboro, Del., had a blood alcohol level of about .062 percent at the time of the crash. According to Virginia law, this is below the legal limit of .08 percent for regular drivers but above the legal limit of .04 percent for commercial truck drivers.

Blood tests revealed Hall also had multiple drugs in his system: cocaine, benzoylecgonine (an indicator of cocaine), methamphetamine, amphetamine, ephedrine/pseudoephedrine, and THC (an indicator of marijuana).

Hall had a history of drug abuse, according to the autopsy report.

Among his personal effects was a black pouch containing two syringes, two capsules, one of which contained white powder, a cigarette lighter, a straw, a napkin, three Q-tips, a nail, a piece of wire, and a foil wrapper.

Hall died by drowning. His body showed no signs of blunt force trauma and there was no competing cause of death, the autopsy stated.

The accident occurred on July 27 at approximately 6:30 p.m. during heavy rain while the speed limit on the bridge-tunnel was reduced to 35 mph. Hall was driving southbound when his vehicle struck the rear of a van traveling ahead of him.

The van was forced into the guardrail, bounced off the guardrail into the rear of the tractor-trailer, and spun to a stop across the right travel lane. The tractor-trailer crashed through the guardrail and into the water below.

Traffic was stopped at the bridge-tunnel’s north plaza for about two hours. The four passengers of the van were treated by EMS personnel from Cape Charles Rescue Service and released, and they made written statements to police.

The U.S. Coast Guard began its search for the tractor-trailer, and maintenance personnel prepared to begin repairing the damage to the bridge. By 9:30 p.m. traffic was flowing steadily again with the 35 mph reduced speed still in effect.

By about 6:30 a.m. on July 28, a diving crew had arrived. They located the truck and the body of Hall’s passenger, 29-year-old Christopher Fenner, in the cab.

At approximately 1:54 p.m. a crane lifted the cab out of the water and placed it on a barge. Virginia Beach police and fire personnel were unable to remove the body from the truck cab. The barge was transported to Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel property at Little Creek, where a vehicle extrication was performed, meaning the vehicle had to be taken apart to remove the body.

Hall’s body was recovered on July 29 about seven or eight miles away from the scene and was identified by his brother, Darnell Hall, in a photo shown to him by police.

Darnell Hall, also a truck driver, had been traveling a few minutes behind his brother at the time of the accident. Both men were drivers for the Rennie Hunt trucking company. Darnell Hall stopped at the bridge-tunnel’s south plaza when he was unable to reach his brother by cell phone and he suspected his brother was the one involved in the accident.

The driver of the van, Angel Luis Cruz Alicea, 53, of Allentown, Pa., was not at fault in the accident, nor was he under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Jervone Hall was following too close, the crash report stated.

Both the van and the tractor-trailer were totaled, and about $70,000 worth of damage was done to the bridge-tunnel roadway, curb, guardrail, and a light pole.