A Southwest Virginia physician who recently served as the state’s behavioral health commissioner died Friday following a three-vehicle crash in Augusta County that also killed a high school graduate, officials said.
Dr. Samuel Hughes Melton, 52, of Bristol, Virginia, died at the University of Virginia Medical Center, the Virginia State Police and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam confirmed Friday.
Northam said he and his wife, Pam, were deeply saddened by Melton’s death and extend their thoughts and prayers to his wife, daughters, family and friends — and to the family of Hailey Green, an 18-year-old from Staunton who was killed in the crash.
VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller said Melton was driving a Hyundai Tucson east on state Route 254 when it struck the rear bumper of an eastbound 2018 Subaru CrossTrek, driven by Jean M. Scheeren, 55, of Waynesboro, Virginia. The Hyundai crossed the center line and struck head-on a westbound Toyota Solara, driven by Green, Geller said.
Investigators believe Melton suffered a medical emergency that may have been a factor in the crash, Geller added.
Green, a recent graduate of Fort Defiance High School, died at the scene. A candlelight vigil was held Saturday evening at the high school.
Green was actively involved as a student athletic trainer for all 12 sports teams at Fort Defiance, Principal Larry Landes said.
“Hailey was passionate, loved all and quietly went about the business of helping others,” he said.
Landes said Green was planning to attend Eastern Mennonite University to major in nursing.
Melton was appointed commissioner of the state’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services in 2018. He also served as deputy commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health.
Northam said he also served on a number of boards and groups devoted to improving the medical profession, health policy and addiction treatment.
“Dr. Melton for many years made his home in Southwest Virginia, where he built a well-respected career as a family physician and addiction expert,” Northam said. “Not only was Dr. Melton a devoted public servant and physician, I considered him a friend.”
Previously, Melton served as the vice president of Mountain States Health Alliance, a predecessor of Ballad Health.
“Hughes Melton was a special person. He was caring, loving, and had a true servant’s heart. Our hearts are broken,” according to a Ballad Health statement.
Virginia Del. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, said Southwest Virginia has lost a “great advocate and an even better man” in Melton.
“Commissioner Melton’s legacy will be felt through the countless lives he has improved and his work to make our region and the entire commonwealth a better and healthier place,” Pillion said.
He added that he had the pleasure of working with Melton and his wife on initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic.
“He was a thoughtful, passionate and dedicated public servant who represented our region with integrity and honor,” Pillion said.