Falls Mill, WV Helicopter Crash, Sep 1981


Falls Mill, W. Va. (UPI) -- VINCENT ZUMMO, the controversial sheriff of Braxton County, was killed Friday in a helicopter crash in a remote area of the county.
Authorities said ZUMMO, 32, was a passenger in the helicopter piloted by LEONARD LINTON, 30, of Cumberland, Md. LINTON also died in the crash.
Because of the number of controversies he became entangled in by arresting local and state politicians, a Charleston feature writer likened ZUMMO to Buford Pusser, the Tennessee sheriff whose life was made into the move, "Walking Tall."
Pusser died in an automobile crash on a lonely road late at night.
A resident of a house about 50 yards from the crash site said the helicopter flew low over her house just before crashing and catching fire.
An eyewitness said the aircraft "just blew up, and went up in a fireball."
The crash site was about 20 miles northeast of Sutton, the county seat.
The pilot's body remained in the burning wreckage, and ZUMMO'S body lay nearby, according to police. The sheriff was clinging to life when the first people reached the scene, but resuscitation efforts failed to revive him.
ZUMMO, who lived on a farm near Duck, is survived by his wife and a son.
"We have no idea of the cause of the crash," State Police Cpl. R. A. Rinehart said.
Rinehart said he doesn't know for sure what the sheriff was doing in a helicopter in the remote section, but surmised it was "some kind of surveillance."
Recently, ZUMMO criticized state police for their raid last month on a patch of marijuana which he said he and his deputies had staked out for six weeks.
The career law officer ran for sheriff on a campaign of cracking down on drugs and getting a better return in investments of county funds.
The Monroeville, Pa., native took office in January. He overcame the opposition of the Braxton County Democratic machine in both the primary and general elections last fall to get elected -- in his second try. He was defeated when he first ran for sheriff in 1976.
Not long after he took office, ZUMMO arrested Ledra Argabrite, the president of the county commission, on a drunken driving charge on Interstate 79.
Later, ZUMMO issued a traffic ticket to state Senate President Warren McGraw, D-Wyoming, on a charge of running a stop sign off the I-79 exit at Flatwoods. McGraw claimed the sheriff was abusive in his treatment of him.
A magistrate later dismissed the charge against McGraw when ZUMMO failed to appear at a hearing, but the sheriff said he was not notified of the hearing. The sheriff's effort to get the ticket reinstated was rejected by a circuit court.
ZUMMO also criticized Braxton County magistrates for letting speeders and drunks off with light fines.
The sheriff married a Braxton County woman and moved to the county in 1969.

Tyrone Daily News Pennsylvania 1981-09-12