Evacuated residents just want to return to homes, routines Crash area 'taken over' by federal government

September 16, 1997|By Joe Nawrozki and Jay Apperson | Joe Nawrozki and Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dail Willis contributed to this article.

Bowleys Quarters was turned into an occupied peninsula yesterday as camouflaged Air Force guards, some toting M-16 rifles, prowled the eastern Baltimore County community where a stealth fighter plane crashed during an air show Sunday.

"The government has taken over," said Emma Wetzelberger, who had been dining at the Wild Duck Cafe off Bowleys Quarters Road on Sunday and saw authorities detain dozens of boaters in a nearby marina.

As the Air Force began looking for clues to the crash, residents and visitors of the placid waterfront community -- now a "National Defense Area" -- wondered when their lives would return to normal.

Several hundred feet from the guarded Chester Road location, a smell resembling burned plastic hung in the air. Trees near the downed plane were singed brown. Small pink flags marked where parts of the exploding aircraft fell.

A team from Andrews Air Force Base was scheduled to spray a nontoxic coating onto the remains of the stealth fighter to keep the smell of the aircraft's burned skin to a minimum, an Air Force official said.

The area bristled with security. While armed Air Force personnel patrolled the land, Baltimore County police in a Zodiac boat blocked the mouth of Frog Mortar Creek, eyeing people through binoculars.

On Susquehanna Avenue, a small squad of county police officers stopped motorists. If the drivers couldn't prove they lived in the neighborhood, police -- many of whom had worked through the night -- wearily, yet pleasantly, sent the visitors back.

About a dozen families had been evacuated from a block of Chester Road after the crash. Many spent Sunday night with relatives; three families were placed in area hotels, said officials from the Central Maryland chapter of the American Red Cross.

Second Lt. David Huxsoll, an Air Force spokesman, said the Air Force is responsible for compen= sating residents for any damage and has a four-person claims team working on the incident.

The claims officers, working out of the Bowleys Quarters fire house, met with 10 families yesterday and helped them fill out forms, Huxsoll said. "If somebody needs things right away -- a vehicle or cash -- we can give them that," Huxsoll said.

Commercial crabber Jim Dimick, who lives on Susquehanna Avenue, just wanted to get back to work. He was trying to get near the crash site on Chester Avenue. "My mother lives there. We keep our truck there," he said. "We're trying to get the truck out so we can make a living."

Residents were not the only ones inconvenienced.

Terry McVee of Gardenville, out for a boating excursion Sunday with her husband and 5-year-old daughter, said they returned to nearby Long Beach marina about 9 p.m. Sunday but were not allowed to drive out of the neighborhood.

They slept on their 31-foot Trojan and then finally escaped when security personnel from Martin State Airport took them by boat to docks at the airport.

"I'm mad," McVee said, while her husband arranged for a rental car at the Bowleys Quarters fire house.

A group of boaters from near Harrisburg, Pa., were staying at an area hotel, hoping they would soon be able to get back to their cars at the Long Beach marina. They'd been shuttled from the marina after the crash but unable to return for their belongings.

"We have no clothes, no toothbrushes, no nothing," said one of the boaters, Kathy Burciaga. She was wearing a T-shirt and shorts bought at a local store.

She said she'd missed a day's work at her waitress job. Also, she had to arrange for her neighbors to care for Nina, her blind, diabetic dog. The neighbors, she said, had to give the dog another day's dosage of insulin.

L Meanwhile, authorities worked to keep frustrations in check.

"There's nothing much we can do but help the best way we can," said county police Capt. Jim Johnson, Essex precinct commander, who had been working without sleep since Sunday. "Hopefully, everything will be back to normal soon."

Pub Date: 9/16/97

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