Driver killed in I-81 crash


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer       
A minivan veered off Interstate 81 this morning and crashed off the west side of the northbound lanes. The driver of the vehicle died in the accident. State Police believe the crash may have been health-related, but did not release the name of the driver, who was the only occupant of the minivan.

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — Shortly before 10 this morning, a minivan with New York plates and a single occupant drifted off of the west side of Interstate 81 northbound and crashed into the tree-lined bank along the road. The driver died at the scene.
The name of the victim was not available because State Police were attempting to notify the next of kin, said State Police Investigator Raymond Roberts.
The driver appeared to be elderly, Roberts said. There was evidence of head trauma, he said, adding that a coroner was en route to the scene at about 10:20 a.m. The cause of death has yet to be determined.
“We believe that there may be some circumstances that are health related,” Roberts said as traffic whipped by on the highway, which had not been closed. “He (the witness to the accident) saw no brake lights — the vehicle just drifted off the side of the road.”
The front windshield and front passenger-side window of the red Ford Windstar were broken, and a body was lying beside the driver’s side on the grass, covered by a white blanket. Small, broken trees led up to where the minivan had come to rest, nearly perpendicular to the road and 15 to 20 feet from the shoulder.
State Police, the Marathon Fire Department, the Marathon Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and the Cortlandville Fire Department responded to the scene of the accident between the Marathon and Polkville exits. The Cortland County Sheriff’s Department said that the first call was received at 9:52 a.m.
The accident was several miles north of another fatal accident Sunday night in which two people were killed when their southbound minivan crossed over the median and overturned across the northbound side of the highway. Four other occupants were injured.



Ward pleads guilty to arson

Plea deal will grant time served

Staff Reporter

Harlan Ward pleaded guilty this morning to setting the December fire that destroyed a former Wickwire Brothers warehouse on south Main Street.
Ward, 21, who was charged with setting the fire on Dec. 4, pleaded guilty in County Court to first-degree arson and third-degree burglary, both felonies. Ward, and his public defender Randolph Kruman, filed the plea based on a proposed six-month jail sentence, five years of probation and $96,000 in restitution.
When District Attorney David Hartnett read the combined amount for the restitution, taken from the damage to the building and to Verizion telephone equipment, Ward’s younger sister, June, scowled at her mother and in a loud whisper said, “How the hell are we going to pay that?”
Hartnett told the court that by allowing the probation Ward would be able to go back to work so he could begin to pay the restitution.



Homer native awaits rare transplant operation

Staff Reporter

A Homer native is hoping to soon be the recipient of a rare double lung and liver transplant, the first of its kind at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Patti Prince, 25, who detailed her struggles with cystic fibrosis in a July 6 article in the Cortland Standard, was airlifted from Syracuse’s University Hospital to the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland Thursday after she showed signs of a potential lung collapse, said close friend Beth Odell.
“She was in bad shape,” Odell said. “She started coughing up severe amounts of blood and her CF (cystic fibrosis) specialist said there wasn’t much they could do out here.”
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary condition that affects the entire body, but most heavily affects the lungs, which can be severely damaged over time by thick mucus secretions.
Prince received a lung embolization Monday morning to stop the bleeding, according to Dr. John Fung, director of the clinic’s transplant center.