A 23-year-old Eastpoint woman was critically injured and 13 others were hurt in an 11-vehicle pileup that started when a dump truck carrying 22 tons of asphalt literally drove over the woman's car on the Harbor Tunnel Thruway just north of the Harbor Tunnel.
Kimberly Ann Schroeder of the 7400 block of Kirtley Road was flown by state police medevac helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center at University Hospital, where she was being treated for head injuries and was reported in "very critical" condition last night, according to a hospital spokesman.
Emergency crews took more than an hour after the 4:30 p.m. accident to cut Ms. Schroeder out of her 1988 Nissan, which was crushed so badly that police and towing workers could not determine the model.
Preliminary police investigation indicates that the dump truck's brakes failed, according to Michelle Nolan, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Toll Facilities Police at the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. The driver, who was not injured, apparently swerved into the left southbound lane to avoid ramming into the car ahead of him, she said.
When the asphalt-laden truck crossed lanes, it plowed over the top of Ms. Schroeder's Nissan, pushing it into the concrete barrier. The truck had to be hoisted off the car by a crane.
The cars following the dump truck and the Nissan could not slow down quickly enough to avoid crashing into each other, Ms. Nolan said.
"They just spun out all over the place," she said. One car landed on top of the concrete barrier, she said.
The pileup occurred about one-quarter mile north of the tunnel's southbound tube, under the bridge at the intersection of Holabird Avenue and Ponca Street, she said.
The Harbor Tunnel was closed as soon as the accident occurred Ms. Nolan said. The northbound lanes reopened two hours later; the southbound lanes were shut down for three hours, until 7:20 p.m.
"It could have been 10 times worse" had the accident occurre at the same time on a weekday, Ms. Nolan said, when traffic in the area is frequently bumper-to-bumper waiting to enter the tube.
Police said they were still identifying the other victims late last night and had little information about how seriously they were injured, but none of the other 10 vehicles was damaged as severely as Ms. Schroeder's Nissan.
The Nissan "doesn't even look like it's a car, it's so torn up," said Michael A. Cottingham Sr., the night attendant at Frankford's Towing, where the Nissan was taken after the accident. "That big truck did a job on it, drove right over top of it, smashed it, flattened it out."
Other injured motorists were taken by ambulance to Johns Hopkins Hospital and to Francis Scott Key Medical Center. Seema Kumar, a spokeswoman for Hopkins, said three people were treated at the hospital for minor injuries and released. The hospital identified two victims as Vondi Harris, 24, and Cynthia Blackett; the other victim's name was not available.
The dump truck is owned by Cunningham Paving Co. Inc. of Crownsville. Police were withholding the driver's name until they finished questioning him. An investigation by the Toll Facilities Police's Truck Safety Division confirmed that one of the truck's brake lines had broken.
Charges against the dump truck driver are pending, said Cpl. Lee O. Palmer of the Toll Facilities Police. But he said neither drugs nor alcohol were factors in the accident.