DAMASCUS, Va. — The medical expenses of hikers struck by an elderly driver in last weekend’s Trail Days Parade will likely be covered by the man’s insurance, the mayor of this Washington County town said.
The family of 86-year-old Deward Blevins contacted Chief of Police Bill Nunley and other town officials, according to Mayor Jack McCrady, and has turned over the necessary information for victims to turn in medical bills in connection to the May 18 crash in which 60 were injured, four of them seriously.
“(The victims) will be taken care of,” McCrady said. “That will null the efforts of the town to do a fundraiser to help these guys out, but we have been told that insurance is going to cover those issues. Our main focus was taking care of them and making sure they got home.”
The most seriously injured have already been released from area hospitals, according to media relations personnel from Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System, and McCrady said those who only suffered minor injuries like cuts, scrapes and bruises either left after completion of the weekend’s events or later that day. Other victims were picked up in Damascus by family members, he said.
“We had some who decided to continue on their journey on the trail,” he said.
Blevins struck the crowd when he had a medical episode behind the wheel minutes after the parade started, according to Nunley, and was unable to stop his 1997 Cadillac from plowing into a group of hikers gathered to march in the 28th annual parade.
Nunley announced last Monday that no criminal charges were going to be placed against Blevins after medical records were reviewed that confirmed a medical condition.
A firefighter with the Damascus Volunteer Fire Department was able to jump into the car and stop it before it went further into the crowd that lined Laurel Avenue and the bridge overlooking Laurel Creek.
The woman who was caught under the car — lifted off of her by people coming out of the crowd — was treated for a broken toe and other minor injuries, officials said.
Blevins was let into the parade just minutes before its start, a policy that will likely change for next year’s Trail Days, the mayor said.
“The parade committee is going to be looking into everything, from parade entry to people lining the street and how to best protect them,” McCrady said. “We made all kinds of safety preparations; it was just a fluke,” he said. “I don’t know how you make anything completely fail-safe. We will definitely look at all aspects of Trail Days.”
He said the burden for participants of Trail Days – which he noted “is not going anywhere” – is on the town.
“It is part of Damascus,” he said. “It is part of our identity and we want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Staff writer Allie Robinson contributed to this story.
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