Report: Driver had checked text message before wrecking ambulance


BUCKHANNON — The driver of an Emergency Site Protection ambulance that wrecked on Brushy Fork Road Tuesday afternoon may have been using her cell phone moments before the crash.
Betty Louann Harding, 40, of Fairmont, was traveling south on Brushy Fork Road when she lost control of  the 2003  Ford ambulance coming into a curve just past the Brushy Fork Mart. The ambulance went off the right side of the road, swerved back, crossed both lanes, spun around and finally stopped in a ditch on the opposite side of the road, according to the report from the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department.
Lt. Mark Davis, the investigating officer, said in the report that the driver stated she had previously been distracted with her cell phone.
Harding told Davis that while at the stoplight at the Route 33 and Brushy Fork intersection, she received a text message and checked her phone while she was stopped before putting the phone down. After driving through the light, Harding said she received another text message and picked up her phone, hit the home button and put the phone in her lap.
The statement does not say Harding actually sent any messages herself.
Harding has been cited for failure to maintain control. On Thursday, Davis said he had to follow up with the Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney’s office relative to the text messages. If the prosecutor’s office chooses, a texting while driving charge could be coming as well, he said.
At the time of the wreck, the ambulance was taking 71-year-old Charlotte Hanline, of Buckhannon, home from a Bridgeport clinic. Hanline was listed as having a possible injury and was taken to United Hospital Center.
Tim Hess, 37, an EMT in the airway seat in the back with Hanline, was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital with minor injuries. Front seat passenger Glenda Riffle, 47, was also taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital with minor injuries.
Harding reported no injuries.
The Buckhannon Fire Department and Upshur County EMS responded to the wreck.
Davis was assisted at the scene by Cpl. Theron Caynor.
Donald Dulaney with Emergency Site Protection said the company had no comment at this time. 

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