Fiery I-81 crash claims two Staunton residents

^ Posted Oct. 7

By Alex Bridges

The Jeep Cherokee that was involved in a three-vehicle crash in which two people were killed Friday on Interstate 81 in Frederick County turned into a "ball of fire," according to the driver of one of the cars that was hit.

Jenelle Embrey, 45, of Linden said the tractor-trailer struck the Jeep while traveling "full speed," and continued to travel forward past the 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser that she was driving before stopping.

"I can't believe we lived," Embrey said.

Heather Lee Santor, 39, and Acoye M. Breckenridge, 18, both of Staunton, died at the scene of the crash on Interstate 81 near Kernstown, according to state police spokesman Sgt. F.L. "Les" Tyler.

Trooper B.G. Davis also issued a summons for reckless driving to Lance W. Anderson, 43, of Hudson, S.D., identified as the driver of tractor-trailer that caused the fatal crash, Tyler said Saturday afternoon.

The trooper reported driver inattention contributed to the crash.

The 2007 Peterbilt tractor-trailer rear-ended the 1998 Jeep Cherokee, driven by Santor, which had stopped in traffic in the right, southbound lane of Interstate 81 south of Va. 37 at approximately 7:48 p.m., according to Tyler. The Jeep caught fire after the collision.

Santor and Breckenridge, a passenger in the Jeep, died at the scene, according to Tyler. A second passenger in the Jeep, Zackary Santor, 18, of Staunton, was taken by ambulance to Winchester Medical Center, Tyler said.

The collision also had pushed the Jeep into the rear of the Chrysler driven by Embrey, Tyler said. The force of the collision sent both the tractor-trailer and the Chrysler into the left lane. the Chrysler spun and struck the side of the tractor-trailer, according to Tyler.

Embrey recalled the experience by phone Saturday night and noted that her father, Harry Hamilton Jr., 65, a real estate agent in Kernstown, rode as a passenger in the Chrysler he bought just a few days before the crash, Embrey told the Daily she and her father drove from his home near the Va. 37 interchange and had entered the interstate only minutes before the collision sent the Chrysler spinning, striking the tractor-trailer.

Embrey said she had stopped for traffic in a construction zone, giving plenty of distance between the Chrysler and a flatbed truck in front of her vehicle.

The events which occurred after all vehicles stopped left Embrey shaking even 24 hours later. Embrey recalled seeing her father run to the Jeep and try to pull the victims from the vehicle before it caught fire.

"They were all alive," Embrey said. "They were very much alive."

Hamilton then pulled Zackary Santor from the Jeep, Embrey recalled.

"[Hamilton] just ripped the window right out of the door," she said. "He was trying to get the others out. ... and he wasn't able to cut the seat belt."

As Hamilton shouted to the occupants inside the Jeep, Embrey said she could see and hear the other teen passenger screaming, but the driver appeared barely conscious. Embrey said she then heard a popping noise coming from the Jeep and the whole thing turned into "a ball of fire."

"They burned up right there in front of us," Embrey said.

Embrey expressed amazement at her father's efforts in spite of the danger and recalled shouting to him to get away from the Jeep when the vehicle caught fire.

Neither Anderson nor Embrey reported injuries, according to Tyler. Embrey recalled her father hurt his hands from pulling out the car door window.

All people involved in the crash were wearing seat belts at the time of the incident, Tyler said. Zackary Santor's condition was not known Saturday.

Members of the state police crash reconstruction and motor carrier safety teams assisted at the scene.

The crash caused traffic to back up for miles north of the scene as police closed both southbound lanes. Fire and rescue workers responded to the crash.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or


Thoughts and prayers to those and their families of everyone involved in the wreck. May Gods grace carry you all through.

I read this story 2 times. Something is missing. Why was the jeep stopped in traffic in the right lane of 81? Was it because of a earlier accident or was the jeep broke down? Whatever happened is tragic when lives are lost. I pray for the families. I am wondering what happened becuase I drive 81 everyday. It scares me so . But I have to get to work. but 81 gets more dangerous everyday. I dont know if speeding was involved, but my opinion is that raising the speed limit to 70 was ignorant. I wish they would put it back to 60. Speed kills.

They've been working on southbound 81 every night for the past week or so...things have been coming to a creeping halt just about dark. Be careful out there.

Troopers are usually at the site of interstate construction/repaving. I think they should be where the a lane closure starts or even where the first signs of 'lane closed ahead' are posted. Another tragic loss of life on I-81. My sympathy to the family of those who lost their lives in this incident.
I'm guessing a charge of involuntary manslaughter will be forthcoming.


The 18 year old that died in that car was my older brother..he was on his way home from WVU where he studied engineering and was doing are the most sick person I have ever come across he was a college student on his way home to HIS FAMILY! My brother is dead and I come on here and see you..Some punk hiding behind a computer screen talking crap about somebody you know nothing about..shut up and get a life!.....RIP big bro

I am sorry about the lose of your brother..prayers are with you and your family...also will pray for howboutthehotel--that they will get some compassion for others and stop being insensitive to peoples feelings. May God give you the strength to deal with your pain of losing your brother.

Your posts' show clearly who is an idiot. Thanks for staying off 81.

I see the mean comment posted by "howboutthehotel" has been deleted. I think the nvd should review all comments before posting them, also, I think "howboutthehotel" owes the family an apology!! My Sincere Condolences to the families. God Bless.

Changing the speed to 70 on I-81 was insane (they were doing this speed anyway) and it cost the taxpayers approximately $350,000 plus to change those signs. That's probably a low estimate, but the governor just couldn't wait to spend some money.

I feel very uncomfortable getting on this interstate and avoid it as much as I can. It's so tragic to hear about more wrecks and loss of life.

Sorry for all the families concerned in this latest tragedy.

Hotel: Apparently the NVD dropped your horrible comment regarding this accident and rightfully so. I personally feel a good "BUTT KICKING" would be in order for you and a lesson in compassion. The folks who lost their lives did nothing wrong - just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. SHAME!!! SHAME!!!

To meme 12, my sincerest sympathy for your loss. I am assuming that NVDaily removed the objectionable post you are referring to, as I don't see it on here. Good for NVDaily. All I can say is there are Internet trolls everywhere. I hope the energies of total strangers who care about this tragedy will give you some comfort in your pain and loss. As for that poster, perhaps what goes around comes around.

At first I wondered who the invisible poster was being spoke of and then it hit me. I am truly remorseful for any insensative/stupid comments posted. I am aware family members have read online coverage of their loved ones tragedies, and totally disregarded the fact that my comment(s) could be offensive and hurtful. All criticizm of my idiotic postings Sat. night is deserved.

Everyone keeps saying that the speed limits are to high and that's why there are so many wrecks. Well for your information that is totally untrue.
Smart, good drivers can speed safely and never wreck.
Have you ever observed how people drive? Most are impatient cutting in and out of the flow of traffic and always tailgate leaving no margin for error. Then you get those that drive to slow especially in the left lane and that causes road rage and then mistakes happen and you have wrecks.
Have you ever observed drivers texting while they drive?
They cannot stay in their lane their speed constantly changes, they drive like they are drunk drivers because they are distracted.

Heart broken for these people and their families. Absolute tragedy. Just reading this story is difficult, I can't imagine being there. My thoughts and prayers are going out to the people who loved these victims, and the bystanders who witnessed it all.



I totally agree 'a voice...'! It is my understanding that family members have contacted staff writer Alex Bridges about this and he refused to remove or edit the details. Thank you so much Alex Bridges for your empathy and concern for the families. I pray nothing bad ever happens to someone you love and you are forced to read every terrible detail on the news or online...

I didn't know the people involved in this crash but have friends who did know them. This story is very hard to read due to the details given. I think it is very insensitive for the write to include such details which could be hurtful to the family. Just the visual I get from reading the story is painful enough and I have no emotional attachment to the people involved.

Alex Bridge shame on you!

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