Fatal accident leads to outpouring of community support


BUCKHANNON — On Tuesday, September 27, a tragic motor vehicle accident occurred in Upshur County. Two individuals including Christopher Michael Pyles age 50 and Karen Gimmel age 54 were pronounced deceased on scene. Following the news of the tragedy many community members, businesses, organizations and friends of the family are holding fundraisers and more to support the family of Pyles and Gimmel. 

In a press release from the Upshur County Sherriff’s Office, the single motor vehicle accident took place at approximately 4 p.m. in the Excelsior area of Upshur County. The press release noted, “A silver Jeep Cherokee was operated by Buckhannon resident Michael Pyles traveling west of Route 151 when he exited the south roadway edge and lost control of the vehicle and traveling north across road striking a tree over the embankment. Both Christopher Michael Pyles, 50 and Karen Gimmel, 54 were pronounced dead on scene. Deputy Tanner Collins is investigating the crash and was assisted by West Virginia State Police, Upshur County EMS, Department of Highways, Ellamore and Buckhannon Fire Departments.” 

As the news of the tragedy spread throughout social media, many are offering fundraisers and more to support the family. One of those individuals is Makayla Brockleman that owns Crafts by Makayla. Makayla shared, “with the permission of Brittany Pyles… I will be hosting a T-shirt fundraiser on my craft page, 100% of profits will be donated to Brittany and her brother Michael. I will post a few color options for shirts and a few designs to choose from. They will be the only ones available to make this easier. Orders will be open until next Friday; on October 7 I will place a bulk order of shirts and then distribute them to those who ordered. Payment is due at the time of order.”

The Buckhannon McDonalds is hosting a spaghetti dinner as well to help the family of Gimmel. In their post on Facebook, Buckhannon McDonalds said, “We will be hosting a Spaghetti Dinner in honor of Karen Gimmel, a longtime manager at your local McDonald’s. All profits will go to her daughter to help support her and her brother in this time of need. Tickets will be available to purchase at the store starting tomorrow, ticket sales will end Friday, October 7.” The dinner will be held at the Buckhannon Eagles located at 2671 Clarksburg Road on Saturday, October 8 from 4 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Ellamore Fire Department is also hosting a dinner. They shared on Facebook, “Please join us for a Freewill Ham and Bean Benefit Dinner Sunday, October 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The dinner will consist of ham and beans (brown or white), fried potatoes, cornbread, dessert and drink. All money raised will go directly to Brittany Pyles to assist with the financial strain of losing both parents and to care for her younger brother.” The department also shared that anyone wanting to make a food or monetary donation can message or call Jamie Pugh at (304) 642-9266. 

A GoFundMe was also started by Kayce Wooten who shared in the description on the page, “Brittany and Michael Pyles lost their mother and father in a tragic car accident on September 27. It was Brittany’s 24th birthday, the day their world came crashing down. She will now raise her little brother, Michael (age 13), in addition to her 2-year-old son. Brittany will need financial support to lay her parents to rest and cover other future expenses. Please give what you can and share this page. If you prefer to give a cash, check or food/gas gift card donation, those may be dropped off to Mt. Cap Child Development Center in Tennerton. Thank you for supporting these siblings in this unimaginable time.”

There is also an online benefit auction on Facebook titled, “Benefit Auction for Brittany Pyles and Michael”. It is a private group but anyone can find it and ask to join. The auction is in effect now and will end on Sunday, October 16 at 4 p.m. Within the group it is noted by administrator Chrissy Chrystal Batten, “If you have items to donate please post them. You can drop your items off at Rohr’s Body Shop in Buckhannon or call Jamie Pugh at (304) 642-9266. Let’s all help out in this tragic situation.”

And while it is apparent that none of these things will ease the pain of the family it is beautiful that the community is banding together to help. It is summarized best in a quote by author Steve Maraboli, “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”

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