The station wagon was out of control -- hitting and bouncing off the concrete median barrier on Interstate 95 during the busy Monday morning rush hour. Sean E. Moran saw the car hit and bounce four times and decided that if he didn't do something, someone could get killed.
In what the police later described as a "miracle," Mr. Moran, a 20-year-old resident of Joppa, delicately maneuvered his Toyota 4Runner so that its back bumper was in front of the runaway station wagon, tapped his brakes and brought both vehicles to a gentle stop.
Then he and other good Samaritans helped in getting the driver, 62-year-old Charles A. Sheidy Sr. of Aberdeen, onto the ground and performed CPR on the man, who was unconscious after an apparent heart attack.
Mr. Sheidy, an emergency road service supervisor for AAA Maryland, died yesterday at Franklin Square Hospital. But Mr. Moran's action in stopping the station wagon was credited with at least giving Mr. Sheidy a chance and saving others from possible injury.
"I've never heard of anything like this," said William F. Zorzi Sr., spokesman for the AAA Maryland. "It was a highly unusual act of courage, to save a motorist's life and the lives of others."
Mr. Moran said a little divine providence may have helped: "I'm just a single guy who felt that God worked through him that morning. I'm not a church-goer, but I believe in the man upstairs."
A Joppa resident, Mr. Moran said he was heading south on the interstate about 8 a.m. Monday to work as the shipping and receiving manager of Dennis J. Moran & Sons, a family door-and-window business in East Baltimore, when he noticed the AAA-owned station wagon "going up on the jersey wall several times.
"He did that four times before I could get up next to him. Everybody had backed off, and he had slowed enough that traffic in front of him wasn't a factor . . . I weaved my way through traffic. I saw something was wrong with him. I saw him with his head all back, and his hands weren't on the steering wheel."
Mr. Moran said he figured he had to stop the station wagon, which he estimated was going about 25 mph on a slight downgrade. "He could have killed somebody else on the road, or went off into the woods. It seemed like it was fairly important. //TC figured I could pull in front of him and let his vehicle bump mine."
Using the gas pedal of his Toyota, Mr. Moran said, he adjusted his speed to let the slowing station wagon gently tap his rear bumper. Then he gradually braked to bring the runaway wagon to a stop -- with little or no damage to either vehicle. "Some people went by and were saying get it off the road, like we had an accident. They really weren't aware of what happened," Mr. Moran said.
"I went back and looked in his window and he was all sprawled back. His eyes were open and glassy, so I jumped the jersey wall and ran over to a construction truck that was doing work there, and that's how I radioed in to get help."
According to the police and participants, at least four other people stopped to help -- first John Bergquist, 31, a state employee of Bel Air; then Baltimore County school nurse Darla Hypes, a second nurse whose name is unknown, and state Trooper Kevin R. Miller from the North East barrack.
Ms. Hypes, driving from her Bel Air home to work at Baltimore County's Mount Carmel Elementary, said she was inching through traffic trying to change lanes when she noticed Mr. Moran and Mr. Bergquist. "They kind of looked at me as if they didn't know what to do," she said.
She said she had them get Mr. Sheidy out of the driver's seat and onto the ground, and she began cardiopulmonary resuscitation -- assisted for a few minutes by the unidentified nurse who also happened by, and then by Trooper Miller until paramedics arrived.
Yesterday, Mr. Zorzi said the automobile association -- an organization that provides help to members in roadside difficulty -- could not do enough to express its thanks, particularly to Mr. Moran. AAA is giving the young man a lifetime membership and recommending he receive a state police award for civilian valor.
Mr. Moran, who stayed after the police and paramedics arrived to see if he was needed, said simply, "I felt obligated. I wanted to help out in any way I could."