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State adds 2, removes 1 from list of Sandy victims

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two older men, one with a chronic heart and lung disease and the other poisoned by carbon monoxide, were added Monday to West Virginia's list of superstorm Sandy victims, while a 71-year-old woman found buried in snow was removed after authorities determined she died of natural causes.

The actions raised the death toll from last month's storm from six to seven.

Sandy's ferocious mix of wind, rain and snow caused more deaths in West Virginia than any of the more than a dozen states not directly located in the storm's path. Five of the seven victims were 60 or older.

Weather exposure complicated the chronic lung and heart disease of Gilbert Winals, causing his death on Oct. 31, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office said, citing the medical examiner's office. The 77-year-old's body had been found on the porch of his Greenbrier County residence.

An obituary described Winals as a retired coal miner and widower, survived by two daughters who live in West Virginia. Neither has a published telephone number. One didn't immediately respond to an email message.

Also added to the tally was Harry Whitesell, 86. His was the second of two Sandy-related deaths in the state blamed on carbon-monoxide poisoning from gasoline-powered generators. The first was that of a 51-year-old man whose death was already included in the tally.

Whitesell, of Barbour County, was a chemical operator retired from DuPont Chemical Corp. and an Army veteran of World War II, his obituary said. He died Nov. 6. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor, who could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

The medical examiner ruled the death of the 71-year-old woman found buried in her Webster County driveway was not storm-related. Authorities have not released her name.

The medical examiner assessed each death on a case-by-case basis to determine whether Sandy played a role, said Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin.

Other previously reported deaths from Sandy include that of a 60-year-old man struck by a falling tree limb; an 88-year-old woman who died from hypothermia; a 41-year-old woman killed in a traffic accident; and a 68-year-old woman with a medical condition whose family became stranded while trying to drive her to the hospital.

Reaching 1,000 miles across, Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states, devastating portions of New York and New Jersey, knocking out power to 8.5 million, and canceling nearly 20,000 flights. More than 12 inches of rain fell in Easton, Md., and 34 inches of snow fell in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Damage has been estimated at $50 billion, making Sandy the second-most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Katrina.


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