(03/06/2008)
A northbound truck overturned on slush-covered Interstate 79 near the Amma exit in Roane County on February 20, with two people suffering minor injuries.

Traffic was blocked for a short time.

What appeared to be a normal mishap, was much different, with a public information black-out.

Two 60-gallon drums containing radioactive material were thrown from the truck the containers were being hauled from Kanawha County to Kingwood, Preston County, according to the State Police.

Authorities refused to release the victims' names, although the driver received a citation for driving too fast for road conditions, a press release said they were "governmental civilian employees."

"Due to the nature of the material being transported and governmental agency involvement, the names of the driver and passenger are not being released," said the State Police release.

No other information was disclosed at the time.

State Police Sgt. Kenneth McCord said "It wasn't ever meant on our end to be a cover-up, but we didn't know what it involved, and we wanted to err on the side of caution."

McCord said. "I didn't know what kind of security clearance the employees had, and not knowing what their involvement was in it, I didn't quite know how sensitive it was."

McCord identified the driver as William Chandler Beal Jr., 36, of Alexandria, Va. His female passenger was Rica Salcedo, age unknown, also of Alexandria.

McCord said Beal and Salcedo work for National Security Technologies, a Nevada-based firm with a satellite office in Washington, D.C.

Transport documents showed they were hauling materials for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The drums contained cesium-137, which is "used in small amounts for calibration of radiation-detection equipment, such as Geiger-Mueller counters," according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The center, in a written brief about radiation emergencies, says exposure to large amounts of the substance can cause burns, acute radiation sickness and even death.

McCord said the material was being moved from 100 Memorial Tunnel Road in Gallagher to Camp Dawson in Preston County. From there, it was slated to go to its final destination, Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

The Memorial Tunnel, which closed to traffic in the 1980s when the West Virginia Turnpike was expanded to four lanes, has been used since the late 1990s as an anti-terrorism training facility.

Authorities say the materials were safely transported back to their storage location at Andrews Air Force Base.


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