Family is spared in crash 'Happy ending' for couple, baby

September 19, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer Staff writer Carol L. Bowers contributed to this article.

EDGEWOOD -- Joseph Walizer spotted something huge -- he didn't know what -- barreling toward the car yesterday morning. An instant later, he and his wife ducked, just in time to avoid being crushed by a trailer full of rolls of plastic that flattened the roof of their 1992 Chevrolet Beretta.

Mr. Walizer and his wife, Charlene Somers, managed to crawl to safety through the passenger-side windshield with minor injuries after the tractor-trailer swerved into their car at U.S. 40 and Woodbridge Center Way.

But when the Edgewood couple got out, they couldn't see their 14-month-old daughter, Halley, who remained pinned inside, strapped in a child safety seat behind her mother, the driver.

"We heard a few crying sounds, then nothing," Mr. Walizer recalled.

Rescue workers felt the child's toes moving, but the baby remained silent while they struggled to pry open the car and remove her.

That's because she was sleeping -- throughout the rescue operation -- and suffered no apparent injuries. The baby's head was about two inches from the top of the infant seat, which absorbed the blow from the roof, police said. The roof of the car then pushed the infant seat deeper into back seat.

One of the first on to scene was Tfc. Tom Wardrope of the Maryland State police. "When I came over the hill and saw that car pinned beneath that rig, my stomach did flips," he said. "I knew an infant was in that car and I expected the worst. I expected multiple fatalities."

Cpl. Roger Cochran said the accident occurred about 10 a.m. as Ms. Somers, 20, who was driving her husband to work, was trying to turn left into the westbound lanes of the highway. Her husband, 29, was in the seat beside her.

A tractor-trailer heading eastbound on U.S. 40, approaching the intersection on a downgrade, failed to stop at the red light and struck Ms. Somers' car, forcing it into the westbound lanes of U.S. 40. The trailer part of the vehicle then overturned on top of the car.

"The truck driver's explanation was that he had no brakes, and when we checked there was a problem with the braking system," said Corporal Cochran.

He said the driver of the tractor-trailer, 39-year-old Howard Eugene Moore of Nashville, Tenn., was charged with failure to reduce speed and with federal violations for operating a tractor with a steering problem and operating a trailer with a brake problem.

"This one [the accident] has a happy ending, a very happy ending," said Trooper Wardrope. "It's one of the few times in my 18 years on the job that I've been able to smile after doing my report. It's just one of those unexplainable things."

Mr. Walizer, who works at Villa Pizza in Reisterstown Road Plaza, and his wife were treated for cuts and bruises. Their daughter suffered no apparent injuries.

Mr. Moore, the driver of the tractor-trailer, told police at the scene that just after he crested the top of the hill in the eastbound lane of the highway, "the traffic light at the next intersection turned amber, then red." He said he applied his brakes but could not stop the rig.

Mr. Moore was not injured.

"Halley didn't wake up until she was removed from the car seat," Mr. Walizer said from the recovery waiting room at Harford Memorial Hospital. "I'm just glad we're all OK."

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