Car kills 5 at Woodlawn bus stop

July 20, 1995|By Peter Hermann and Joe Mathews | Peter Hermann and Joe Mathews,Sun Staff Writers

Five people, including four children, were killed this morning during rush hour when a car jumped a curb and careened into a crowded bus stop in Woodlawn, leaving a 100-yard trail of carnage along a grassy roadside.

Another child and an adult were injured in the 7 a.m. crash on Woodlawn Drive near the Social Security Administration building. Investigators were questioning the driver of the red 1988 Mazda, who police said was uninjured.

Baltimore County police and an accident reconstruction team from the Maryland State Police spent several hours examining the wreckage.

"Police officers and firefighters are in varying stages of emotional disarray," said Battalion Chief Mark F. Hubbard, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Fire Department.

The victims' names were not immediately available. At least nine people, many from the same family, were at the bus stop, according to fire officials.

Officials said they believed the victims included a mother, her two children and nieces and nephews. The dead children ranged in age from 3 to 7.

The injured adult was taken to Sinai Hospital and listed in serious condition. The injured child was flown by State Police MedEvac helicopter to the pediatric trauma unit at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, and listed in critical but stable condition.

The accident apparently occurred when the Mazda rear-ended a 1974 Camaro driven by John Laveck, 21, of Catonsville, who was driving north on Woodlawn Drive, several hundred yards south of Security Boulevard, authorities said.

"I didn't see the driver," Mr. Laveck said. "I just saw a red streak go by and mow down [the] kids. . . . It seemed like children were flying next to my window. I came back and there were broken Walkmen, bodies and shoes."

An hour after the accident, the closed-off road in the 1500 block of Woodlawn Drive was strangely calm. Most witnesses were being interviewed at the Woodlawn Precinct, but a handful of onlookers stood behind police lines staring at the bodies.

"This is just tragic -- just terrible," said Carl Bowen, 34, who lives in the neighborhood. "I've never seen anything like this here."

Police and fire officials said that after the Mazda struck the Camaro, it jumped a 6-inch curb, ran over an MTA bus stop sign and plowed into the children. The car, with a damaged front-end, came to a stop about 100 yards north of the stop.

White sheets covering the bodies -- many lying between imbedded tire tracks -- marked the path of the car. Three bodies lay within 8 feet of each other near where they had fallen.

Another body was 100 feet away and the fifth victim lay near the car. Chief Hubbard said the victims were dragged or thrown from the point of impact.

"At this point, it is difficult to determine a cause," Chief Hubbard said. "All we know is that a car drove through people at a bus stop. We are proceeding carefully because of the large loss of life."

The accident occurred on property owned by the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn. Commissioner Shirley S. Chater released a statement offering "heartfelt prayers and condolences" to the victim's families.

"I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life this morning as a result of the auto accident," she said in a statement. The victims are not believed to have had any connection to Social Security, officials said.

Thel Moore, 60, an accountant who works at a nearby shopping center, said Woodlawn Drive is usually "not that busy a road in the morning."

Mr. Moore said he often takes a morning stroll on the same side of the street where the accident occurred. Today, he said, he stayed inside and used a treadmill.

"It might have been a blessing," he said. "I might have been here about the time this happened."

Chief Hubbard, who has worked as a firefighter for 13 years, said he was called to the scene from his house in Catonsville and sped to the scene.

"It's the most tragic thing I've seen in Baltimore County," the chief said. "One of the main problems we're having is that paramedics, firefighters and everyone else are having problems. doesn't get any worse then this."

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