UPDATED 11:17 A.M.: Crash In Augusta County Leaves One Dead, Two Injured

Posted: April 5, 2013

Daily News-Record

Troopers inspect the scene near the cab of a tractor-trailer and a sport utility vehicle that were involved in a crash just south of the Weyers Cave exit on northbound Interstate 81 shortly after midnight Friday. A third vehicle, a pickup truck, was overturned in the median farther south. One person died and two were injured in the wreck, which occurred about 10:30 p.m. Thursday and kept lanes of the interstate closed for several hours, according to Virginia State Police. Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R.
HARRISONBURG — State police confirmed that a multi-vehicle wreck late Thursday night left one man dead, two injured and one arrested.

Police responded to a call near the mile marker 234 of Interstate 81, near Weyers Cave in Augusta County, at 10:41 p.m.

According to state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller, a 1994 Dodge truck was traveling northbound when the vehicle ran off the road to the left and overturned in the median.

The driver, Samuel J. Russo Jr., 46, of Harrisonburg, fled the scene on foot.

Police arrested Russo early Friday morning in the city and charged him with reckless driving. Geller said that additional charges are pending.

Moments after Russo’s vehicle crashed, Geller said, a Ford Expedition also going northbound swerved to avoid the wreckage, causing the driver to lose control and careen into the neighboring lanes. A tractor-trailer then struck the Expedition.

Daniel R. Manso Jr., 51, of New York, the driver of the SUV, was pronounced dead at the scene, Geller said. His passenger, an adult male from West Virginia, was transported to University of Virginia hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Geronimo P. Manning, 34, of North Carolina, the driver of the tractor-trailer, was transported to Augusta Health for treatment of minor injuries, Geller said.

Lanes Close, Bad Weather

Both the north and southbound lanes were closed for several hours as a result of the wreck, though police reported the scene was clear by 6:30 a.m.

In addition to state troopers, who are investigating the crash, emergency crews from Grottoes, Weyers Cave and Augusta County Fire and Rescue were among those responding to the scene.

The crash occurred as temperatures dropped and rain that had begun falling earlier in the evening turned to sleet around the Valley. Heavy patches of fog also were reported at the time, but it’s unclear what role, if any, weather played in the crash.

At 9:45 p.m., VDOT had issued an advisory regarding the weather, warning motorists in the southern Shenandoah Valley to expect winter driving conditions, particularly at higher elevations.

Shortly after 9 p.m., the National Weather Service had issued a winter weather advisory for the region to be in effect until 2 this morning. Snow, sleet and freezing rain above 2,000 feet with accumulations of up to 3 inches of snow and sleet, and less than a tenth of an inch of ice from freezing rain were forecast.

Kaitlin Mayhew can be reached at kmayhew@dnronline.com, or 574-6290

Editor's note: This story updates a previous version that reported only one injury from the crashes.