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Driver who caused 5-fatality crash had health, sleeping problems, neighbor said

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The 70-year-old Richmond man who caused one of the deadliest crashes in recent state history was a dialysis patient who had a history of insomnia,  his next-door neighbor said Wednesday.

Virginia State Police said Walter Edward Skinner was driving his 2006 Honda Ridgeline pick-up the wrong way on southbound Interstate 85 in Brunswick County at about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday when he slammed head-on into a 2011 Toyota Corolla shortly before dawn, killing him and the four occupants of the much smaller vehicle.

Their identities - or place of residence - have not yet been released by authorities.

“He had dialysis Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” said Robinette Barnes, who lives in next door to Skinner’s apartment in the 3800 block of Greenbay Road in South Richmond. “He had problems sleeping. He used to go out there and sleep in his truck because he couldn’t sleep in his bed.”

She said “he loved that truck. That truck shined better than brand-new money was ever made.”

Barnes said Skinner ate Easter Sunday dinner with her. She’s sure he somehow got turned around while heading to his North Carolina hometown.

“That’s where he was going. He was going home,” Barnes said. “All we can say is he’s gone home to a better place. He don’t have to worry about dialysis no more. He don’t have to worry about not sleeping no more.”

A friend who was at Skinner’s apartment Wednesday described him as a fine man who would never want to hurt anyone else.

A review of central and southern Virginia court case databases indicate Skinner, a retired lab worker, had a clean driving record, save for a failure-to-yield conviction two years ago in Chesterfield County.

Why he was driving on the wrong side of Interstate 85 near mile marker 26 remains under investigation. Toxicology reports can take weeks.