Friday, January 18, 2013

Trucker hurt in fight on I-81 is back at work

John Townsend was hit in the head with a hammer by a fellow trucker during a 2012 road-rage incident.

A trucker who was severely injured last year during a road-rage incident on Interstate 81 has returned to work, a Botetourt County prosecutor said this week.

On Jan. 11, 2012, John Townsend, 43, was struck in the head with a hammer by another trucker and suffered several skull fractures. Townsend's injuries brought on a small stroke, caused brain damage and left him deaf in one ear.

Lewis Bumgarner, 35, of Hudson, N.C., was arrested soon after and, in October, pleaded guilty in Botetourt Circuit Court to aggravated malicious wounding. On Dec.11, Judge Malfourd "Bo" Trumbo sentenced him to 28 years and 10 months in prison and ordered him to pay $64,000 in restitution.

Court hearings revealed that the two men had been northbound, each in 18-wheel rigs, when they had a driving dispute about 3 a.m. They argued over their radios and, after they pulled over to confront each other near mile marker 160, Bumgarner hit Townsend once behind the left ear with a ball-peen hammer. He then fled, leaving Townsend lying in the middle of the interstate. The injured trucker was soon discovered by a passing motorist and taken to a hospital.

Botetourt County prosecutor John Alexander said Wednesday that Townsend continues to suffer memory problems but has made strides in his recovery.

"He's improving, but he'll have many permanent issues and issues related to the brain damage," Alexander said. "He's back to work, and he's back to having a driver's license, but he's sort of had to start from scratch on a lot of things."

Alexander credited Townsend's aunt, Rilla Doss, of Centerville, Tenn., with his progress, and has said Doss began raising Townsend when he was 13. He said she traveled to Virginia to help her nephew when he was hospitalized, and also attended Bumgarner's hearings.

"His aunt and uncle have really been taking care of him. I don't think he would have made the recovery he did without their support," he said.

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