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3 deaths attributed to June 29 derecho storm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia health officials now believe three people died as a result of a massive derecho storm that swept through the Mountain State on June 29, knocking out electricity to more than 600,000 people at its peak.

A review of hospital emergency records in the aftermath of the storm indicated three deaths could be attributed to the storm, according to Dr. Marian Swinker, state commissioner for public health.

Swinker said one person died in Pocahontas County, one died in Webster County and one died in Randolph County.

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources spokesman Toby Wagoner would not identify the storm victims Friday, but local authorities were able to confirm the identities of two of the victims.

Pocahontas County Emergency Services Director Shawn Dunbrack said James Martin of Marlinton was outside trying to clear storm damage on July 6 when he apparently succumbed to the heat. Martin was in his 70s.

Marvin Hill, Randolph County emergency management director, said emergency crews found Eloise Dycus and her dog dead in their Randolph County home of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Hill believes Dycus died after bringing a generator into her garage after it began to rain.

Webster County Emergency Services Director Richard Rose was not sure of the identity of the person who died in that county, and referred calls to Webster County Memorial Hospital. A hospital spokeswoman was unavailable for comment Friday.

Swinker said the third victim apparently died from a delay in getting medical care.

She said the state's hospitals kept track of injuries and deaths following the storms.

"Our evaluation of the data received from the [emergency departments] indicated burns and inhalation illness from individuals using generators in closed environments, gastroenteritis from individuals eating spoiled foods and heat-related illness," Swinker said.

Some West Virginia residents were without electricity for two weeks after the storm. The power outages occurred in the middle of a major heat wave.

"West Virginia hospitals did an outstanding job capturing and reporting this much-needed data to the state," Swinker said. "The data collected will help us develop prevention messages that can help save lives in the future."

Swinker suggested that state residents prepare family-disaster kits in the event of future outages or other disasters. Kits might include drinking water, nonperishable food, flashlights and batteries, a first-aid kid, medications, a battery-operated radio, emergency contact information, blankets, cellphones, extra cash, hygiene items and plans for pet care.

For more information on disaster planning, visit www.wvdhhr.org/healthprep or http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/kit/disasters.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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