Sykesville officer hurt in storm

December 28, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

A Sykesville police officer is at home recuperating from a broken leg after she slipped on ice while running to assist a phantom accident victim Saturday night.

An off-duty Howard County sheriff's deputy is credited with helping her when no one else could.

Cpl. Marcella M. Durham, a nine-year veteran of the Sykesville force, reported she was driving north on Central Avenue about 9:30 p.m. when she noticed a snow-covered car blocking the intersection with Third Avenue, said Debbie Onheiser, a spokeswoman for the town Police Department.

While she was getting out of the police cruiser to investigate, Corporal Durham heard someone yell that a woman was pinned under a car, Ms. Onheiser said. The officer heard a woman scream, began running toward the sound of the cry, slipped and fell, breaking her right leg 4 inches above the ankle, Ms. Onheiser said.

"She has complete bed rest for the next two weeks," Ms. Onheiser said of Corporal Durham. "She's got a soft cast now and will probably get a hard cast later. I don't know how long she'll be out."

When Maryland State Police officers working accidents in the area couldn't respond to the officer's radio call for help, Howard County Sheriff's Deputy David Heck, who heard the calls on his scanner at home, quickly dressed and ran a quarter-mile from his home on Obrecht Road to assist.

"When I got there, she was basically lying in the middle of the road," said Deputy Heck, who has worked with the Howard sheriff's office for more than 14 years. "There were some people around her trying to comfort her."

Deputy Heck said he used Corporal Durham's radio to call for an ambulance. He had to call again after the first ambulance that responded slid into the back of a car.

He also untangled the traffic jam on Obrecht Road and helped carry Corporal Durham to Fairhaven where the second ambulance was waiting.

The second ambulance arrived about 20 minutes after he did, Deputy Heck said.

"The entire road was a sheet of ice," he said. "It was extremely treacherous out there. There were no other police officers on the scene, at least that I could identify."

Officers were unable to find the woman reportedly trapped under a car, Deputy Heck said.

"It was cold and snowing hard," he said. "It's hard to make sense out of the situation."

Ms. Onheiser said, "Dave Heck took over the whole thing. He should be credited with helping the town of Sykesville and Corporal Durham. I don't know what we would have done without him."

Corporal Durham could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Sykesville accident was one of many around Carroll County on Christmas night caused by ice, snow and slippery conditions. State police spokesman First Sgt. Thomas Long said the Westminster barracks investigated 17 accidents and observed uncounted "fender benders" where the drivers simply exchanged insurance information.

The snow emergency plan, which requires all drivers to have snow tires or chains on their vehicles, went into effect at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and was lifted at 10 a.m. Sunday, Sergeant Long said.

"It was terrible," he said. "It got bad fast, particularly after it got dark. It was at a bad time because it was the time of year for a lot of visiting and a lot of travel."

But police are convinced that Carroll County experienced fewer accidents than might have occurred because most people did not travel when they realized the roads were hazardous, Sergeant Long said.

"A majority of people used good common sense," he said. "We had literally hundreds of inquiries [Sunday] about road conditions from people stranded from outside the county or Carroll County residents that wanted to return home."

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