8 hurt in crash on B-W Parkway Bus crosses median, strikes several cars

traffic snarled

May 05, 1998|By Jay Apperson and Cheryl Tan | Jay Apperson and Cheryl Tan,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Andrea F. Siegel and photographer Karl Merton Ferron contributed to this article.

A passenger bus careened across a highway median strip and into oncoming traffic on Baltimore-Washington Parkway ,X yesterday, leaving eight people seriously injured and snarling rush-hour traffic between the two cities, authorities said.

Police said four vehicles were involved in the accident, which caused a four-mile backup and forced police to divert cars from the northbound and southbound lanes of Route 295.

Three of the injured were taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, U.S. Park Police said, adding that none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

The Peter Pan Bus Lines vehicle was carrying 17 passengers on a scheduled run from New York to Washington when it was struck by a car about 4: 30 p.m., north of the Powder Mill Road exit near Beltsville, according to police and a company official. That car did not stop, police said.

The bus caromed across the grassy median strip and into the northbound lanes, where it collided with two cars.

Rescue workers found the bus tilted, partially on top of a red car. Both were just off the highway, at the edge of a woods. Another car was in the woods.

Passengers said the accident was sudden and frightening.

Patricia Goodwin was on her way from New York to Washington's Kennedy Center. She felt a jolt, looked up from a book and saw grass where there had been sky.

"It looked like we were going to tip because there was too much green in the window," she said. Goodwin, 26, said she had a minor head injury.

Quentin Bullock, a 27-year-old Washingtonian returning from a business trip in New York, said he was dozing -- but awoke to the terrified screams of his fellow passengers as the bus swerved from the highway and across the median.

"All I saw was the traffic coming and the bus heading the wrong way," Bullock said. "Waking up and seeing that happen, your only thought is, 'I'm not going to make it.' "

Bullock, who said he would seek medical attention for a cut to his leg, praised the bus driver for preventing a more disastrous accident.

"I thank him for what he did because circumstances could have been worse," Bullock said.

A Peter Pan official refused to name the operator and would only describe him as a "veteran driver." Robert Schwarz, executive vice president of the Springfield, Mass., company, said Peter Pan would conduct an internal investigation of the accident.

Police were continuing their investigation of the accident last night.

Authorities closed the parkway between the Powder Mill Road and Route 198 exits while paramedics treated injured passengers at the scene. Police also blocked access to the northbound lanes of the parkway at the Capital Beltway until nearly midnight, sending traffic on alternate routes.

At one point, traffic backed up from the accident scene to the Beltway.

Southbound traffic slowed at the Route 198 interchange and was stop-and-go until Route 197, where police routed motorists off the highway. Some frustrated southbound drivers cut across the median and turned north, looking for another way to get home.

Edwin Carino, 25, of Laurel was on his way from Columbia to Greenbelt when his car over-heated in the backup near the southbound exit for Route 197.

He said he sat there for two hours before a tow truck arrived.

He said, "I called my friends to pick me up here, I called my towing company to pick me up, but they said 295 [the parkway] is closed."

By 7: 30 p.m., the traffic problems eased. By then, two southbound lanes were open, and there was only a minor backup where traffic was being ushered from the northbound lanes to Powder Mill Road.

Peter Pan officials sent another bus to the accident scene to take passengers who were not seriously injured to their destination in Washington.

Pub Date: 5/05/98

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