Richard E. Hardison, Attorney at Law, for claimants.
Nancy J. Aliff, Attorney at Law, for respondent.


These two claims, arising out of the same accident, were consolidated
for hearing pursuant to
the agreement of counsel. The claims arise out of an automobile accident
which took place on
Route 52/6 or Nemours Road, Mercer County, on or about March 20, 1983.
The decedents
were riding in a 1972 Ford Mustang and were proceeding in a westerly
direction. David Allison
was the driver of the vehicle. He was accompanied by Billy Ray Charles.
The vehicle left the
travelled portion of a bridge and went into the Bluestone Creek. Both
suffered death by
drowning as a result of the accident. James Charles and Ben Allison, as
administrators of their
sons' respective estates, seek damages in the amount of $100,000.00 for
each estate.

There is a narrow one-lane bridge at the location of the accident. The
vehicle with the bodies
of the boys was found in Bluestone Creek. The claimants allege
negligence on the part of the
respondent due to lack of warning and/or speed limit signs, lack of
siding on the bridge other
than wooden railings, lack of maintenance of the road at this site, and
the failure of respondent
to maintain the bridge and pavement

of the road at the same width which caused a dropoff on either side of
the bridge. It is not
certain at what time the accident occurred. There are no known witnesses
to the accident.

On the morning of March 20, 1984, between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m., Charley
W. Schultz, who
has lived in Nemours for over twenty years, testified that he heard a
thump from the direction of
the Bluestone Creek. Upon investigation, he discovered the 1972 Ford
Mustang on its roof in
the water of the creek. He assumed that the vehicle had gone off the
right side of the bridge
over a two by six foot railing along the side of the bridge. He observed
fresh scarring on the
wooden railing. He estimated the length of the bridge to be between 25
and 30 feet. He testified
that there have never been any signs warning of the existence of the
one-lane bridge at the
location in question. He further stated that there have never been any
speed limit signs at the
bridge approach. There was a hole in the road at the approach to the
bridge on the day of this

Trooper Estill Adams received a report on March 20, 1983 that a vehicle
had gone off the
bridge at Nemours into the Bluestone Creek below the Nemours Dam. He
stated that there
were several gouge marks starting a few feet onto the bridge. The
highway pavement is
narrower than the bridge. In reference to a pothole at the entrance to
the bridge, Trooper
Adams does not remember anything large. He stated that in the three
years during which he had
worked at the Princeton Detachment of the Department of Public Safety,
no vehicles had run off
this bridge except as the result of mechanical defects.

Claimant James Charles went to the scene of the accident on March 21,
1983. He testified
that the road is narrower than the bridge. He stated that there were no
signs on the road
previous to the bridge. He observed a hole about eight or nine feet from
the bridge in the road.
John Edward Charles accompanied his father, James Charles. He testified
that he also observed
the hole in the road.

Claimant Ben Allison visited the scene of the accident on March 24,
1983. He testified that he
observed a hole, but he did not observe any warning signs.

Dr. Russell Rex Haynes, an engineer and accident reconstruction expert,
visited the accident
site on November 16, 1984. He also went to Lambert's Salvage Yard and
located the Allison
vehicle. The vehicle was stacked on the bottom of a stack of three
vehicles. He removed the tie
rod and the ball point stud from the 1972 Ford Mustang. Dr. Haynes gave
lengthy testimony
pertaining to his opinion as to the reason why the vehicle went over the
bridge. He concluded
that there was not a defect in the Allison vehicle. After employing
professional methods of
accident reconstruction, Dr. Haynes determined that either impact with a
pothole at least two
feet in diameter and 12 inches deep, or, alternately, impact with the
east end of the bridge at the
northeast corner where the pavement is short of the bridge caused the
damage to the Allison

Mr. Lawrence R. Hazelwood, a maintenance foreman with respondent,
stated that he was
familiar with Route 52/6 in the vicinity of Nemours.
He was involved with a complete overlay
paving of the road in 1980. He stated that there was no evidence of
potholes or pothole
patching in the vicinity of the bridge. He did not recall any complaints
made prior to March.,
1983 concerning the bridge.

Robert Ralph Hudson, Jr., Chief Bridge Inspector for respondent,
testified that he inspected
the bridge in question in March of 1982 and that he observed no
structural defects.

Richard W. Boyd, District III Branch Engineer with respondent,
testified that he did not
remember any specific complaints prior to March 1983 regarding the
bridge in question. He also
stated that there are no guardrails on the bridge because "Basically
because it is essentially a
one-lane structure and if guardrails were placed on it you'd essentially
have a problem with any
type of over-width vehicles crossing the structure because of the narrow
roadway width of 11
feet 6 inches."

Claimants have not established that the alleged road conditions were
the proximate cause for
the vehicle in which the decedents were travelling to leave the bridge.
The bridge in this claim is
typical of many bridges constructed on roads which are not main
thoroughfares in West Virginia.
For this Court to find negligence on the part of respondent, the Court
would be engaging in pure
speculation. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident. It has not been
determined what
factors caused this accident. The Court will not make an award based
upon speculation. See
Eller vs. Dept. of Highways, 13 ct.cl. 402 (1981). For these reasons,
the Court is of the opinion
to, and does, deny these claims.

Claims disallowed.