Rachel Dove-BaldwinCivitas News Service
February 20, 2013
RAGLAND — Information was obtained from the Mingo County Magistrate Court Clerk’s office regarding a recent vehicle accident in the Ragland community that yielded one arrest and a number of criminal charges.
According to the criminal complaint filed by West Virginia State Police Trooper D.L. Contos, Rodney Luke Thomas Jr., 20, of Dingess, was placed under arrest after a warrant was obtained against him approximately 5 weeks after he allegedly fled from the scene of an accident in which he was operating a 1993 Buick Park Avenue that struck an electrical pole on Rockhouse Road. A passenger in the car identified as Ronnie Gene Hager, Jr. had to be airlifted from the scene after sustaining life-threatening injuries in the collision.
When Trooper Contos arrived at the accident site, he observed the damaged Buick bearing Kentucky temporary registration plates without anyone inside and was unable to locate a valid proof of registration. The officer then discovered Hager lying in the bed of a Toyota Tacoma still at the location and appeared to have extensive injuries to his face and chest. Trooper Contos was also informed by witnesses that Thomas had fled the scene and was hiding on the creek bank approximately 200 yards from where the crash took place.
Upon approaching the defendant, the officer detected the smell of alcohol on his person and noted in the police report that his eyes were glassy and bloodshot. The defendant advised the trooper that there was a third passenger in the vehicle at the time of the crash but they were never found or identified. Thomas was transported by STAT Ambulance to the Williamson Memorial Hospital (WMH) emergency room to receive medical treatment and Hager was airlifted to the trauma unit at the Cabell Huntington Hospital.
An eye witness relayed to the trooper that Thomas first fled the scene, leaving behind his injured passenger, and had attempted to get a nearby resident to give him a ride home. When the neighbor refused the defendant is said to have gone back to the crash site, removed his injured friend from the wreckage, and placed him in the back of a truck that had stopped to offer assistance.
When the officer arrived at WMH to further question Thomas, he attempted to leave the emergency room in an unclothed state, running into the hallway completely nude.
He allegedly admitted to Contos that he and Hager had consumed a large amount of Early Times whiskey that was provided to them by his uncle before they left the residence in the vehicle, and further stated that he did not currently possess a driver’s license, nor had he ever.
The Buick Park Avenue belonged to the grandfather of the defendant and was taken without permission. The defendant’s blood alcohol test produced a level of .239, right at three times the legal limit of .08.
Thomas was charged with DUI, fleeing on foot, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, joy riding, no operators, no proof of registration, underage consumption, providing false information to a trooper, destruction of property, failure to render medical aid and indecent exposure. He was arraigned before Mingo County Magistrate Dee Sidebottom and was remanded to the custody of the Southwestern Regional Jail at Holden where he remains on a $14,000 bond.