Deadly crash closes part of Holland Road

Published 10:36 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One woman is dead following a single-vehicle accident Tuesday morning in the 4600 block of Holland Road in which she ran into the same tree that was the site of another fatal accident just three days earlier.

Joan D. Skupien, 40, of Murfreesboro, N.C., was the only occupant of the 1997 Mercedes that ran off the road to the right and struck a large oak tree around 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to Suffolk spokeswoman Debbie George.

Skupien, a jail officer, was on her way to work at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail at the time of the accident, George said. Police are investigating the possibility that she was on the telephone at the time of the accident.

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An accident at the same location on Saturday resulted in the death of 7-month-old Logan Lovelace, who was ejected from his family’s vehicle even though he was strapped into a car seat.

Joshua M. Lovelace, 26, suffered minor injuries in that accident. Police said Monday they believed that he may have fallen asleep at the wheel. His wife, Ashley L. Lovelace, 23, remained in critical condition at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital on Tuesday.

Police said that the family’s vehicle had been traveling eastbound on Holland Road before 7 a.m. Saturday, when it ran off the road, struck a tree and came to rest in a ravine.

In both accidents, George said, driver inattention is suspected, as there “didn’t seem to be any external cause.”

She said traffic engineers and public works officials visited the site Tuesday morning to determine whether there were any intrinsic threats to safety. They found that the tree is located 20 feet from the roadway and outside of the public right-of-way. There also are “other trees in the immediate area,” she added.

Police and city officials might never have known the connection between the two crashes if it were not for the fact that the officer investigating Tuesday’s accident had been on the scene during the cleanup and investigation that followed Saturday’s crash.

“It’s a tragic coincidence,” she said.