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Crash That Claimed Virginia Trooper Recalled


June 30--Soon after Trooper Adam Bowen was killed in a car crash Friday night in King George County, questions surfaced about how fast he was driving.

State police haven't commented on Bowen's speed, saying the investigation continues.

But those who saw the carnage have suggested he must have been traveling at a high speed. Even fellow state troopers who eulogized Bowen at his funeral Tuesday characterized him as an extremely dedicated officer, as well as one who strived to get to the scene as quickly as humanly possible.

Virginia State Police Capt. Steve Chumley told fellow mourners that after he got the call about Bowen's death Friday night, it took him about two hours to get to King George.

"I probably would have gotten there a little faster if I had been Adam," Chumley said. "We all know what a hard-charger Adam was, in all that he did."

Bowen was heading west on State Route 3 Friday night when he entered the intersection with Madison Drive. That's the entrance to Presidential Lakes subdivision, and it's across the road from the First Lady's Centre shopping area, which has two restaurants and an ice cream shop.

The speed limit is 45 mph.

There was a lot of traffic in the area on the summer evening, as there usually is most afternoons, said Malcolm Huffman of King George. Huffman was headed east, about 45 minutes before Bowen's crash.

Bowen had his lights and siren on as he entered the intersection. Police said in a news release yesterday that Bowen's cruiser was hit by a Hyundai Elantra that was traveling east on Route 3 and making a left-hand turn into the shopping area.

Two people in the Hyundai were treated for minor injuries.

The cruiser ricocheted into a traffic-utility pole, and the impact split Bowen's vehicle in two.

The back half was wrapped around the pole; the front piece went into the nearby parking lot.

"There were probably nine or 10 parking spaces between the two pieces of car," said Wesley Rogers, a bartender at the nearby King's Pizza restaurant. "I don't know how fast he was going to have those two pieces of car as far apart as they were."

Rogers went running toward the road when he heard the crash. His Jeep was one of three vehicles that Bowen's cruiser hit -- and the impact knocked the Jeep out of its parking space, Rogers said.

Harry Wehr, who lives in Presidential Lakes about a quarter-mile from the highway, heard Bowen's police sirens, then what sounded like "a helluva crash." When he later heard sirens from emergency services vehicles, the former New York City firefighter checked out the scene.

Wehr wondered what would have prompted the trooper to drive that fast in such a congested area.

Bowen reportedly was coming from Dahlgren Road, State Route 206, onto Route 3 and was responding to a call for help involving a state police agent with the narcotics task force.

There are four traffic lights in the 1.4-mile stretch from Dahlgren Road to where the crash happened. The intersection where the cars collided is the fourth of those lights, heading westbound. After it, the speed increases to 55 mph.

There are no skid marks at the accident scene. The only visible trace of a crash -- besides the memorial balloons, flags and flowers left at the site -- is one set of ruts in the grass, leading up to the traffic-light pole.

Former Sheriff Moose Dobson, who retired in December after 43 years of law enforcement in King George County, said the point of impact, not necessarily speed alone, may have accounted for the mutilation to Bowen's patrol car.

Based on photos of the wreckage, he said it looked like the vehicle hit the pole in the worst possible place.

The car was flat on its side when it collided with the pole, causing the roof to absorb the full impact, Dobson said. Had it hit in the front or side, the sturdy frame would have absorbed some of the shock, the former sheriff said.

Dobson never heard anything negative about Bowen during his tenure as sheriff. He acknowledged that Bowen did want to get to the action as fast as he could, just like Dobson did when he was a young deputy. He drove a "muscle car" that hit speeds of 150 miles per hour.

"When you're young and you want to be the best you can be at doing something, you run a little fast," Dobson said.

The Virginia State Police Accident Reconstruction Team is continuing to collect and analyze information gathered at the scene, said Sgt. Thomas Molnar. It has 30 days to finish its report. The team is analyzing the speed of both vehicles before the crash and the speed at the point of impact, Molnar said.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425