Survivors of Arundel crash remain in critical condition 2 wives killed as couples left Naval Academy event

August 10, 1998|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Tom Pelton and Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

As word of the tragedy was being spread to their classmates, two 1952 graduates of the Naval Academy remained in critical condition at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly yesterday, a hospital spokeswoman said, a day after they lost their wives in a traffic accident in southern Anne Arundel County.

The couples were heading home to Virginia after visiting the academy and were driving south on Solomons Island Road on Saturday afternoon when their Pontiac Bonneville collided head on with a minivan, said Lisa Ritter, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County.

Ritter said that after the Bonneville crossed the center line, the minivan swerved to avoid a collision, but the vehicles collided almost on the center line.

Toxey H. Califf and James P. Keane, both 69-year-old retired Navy captains, were injured, and their wives -- Martha Califf, 68, of Alexandria and Margaret Keane, 69, of Arlington -- died at the scene, police said. Toxey Califf was driving, police said.

A spokeswoman at Prince George's Hospital Center said Califf suffered head injuries and Keane multiple internal injuries.

The wife of the minivan's driver -- Shirley Wells, 59, of Lothian -- also was killed, and her husband, Robert Wells, 65, was in critical condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Police were investigating the accident yesterday but do not suspect alcohol as a cause, Ritter said.

"It's a terrible waste," said retired Capt. E. Leigh Ebbert of Alexandria, a 1952 classmate. He and about 20 other classmates saw the plebes of the Class of 2002 reaffirm their oath to abide by the academy's honor code.

Members of the Class of 1952 were invited to return 50 years after the beginning of their own academy experiences to witness the event, which was part of the academy's Parents Weekend.

After the 12: 30 p.m. ceremony at Worden Field, 1952 graduates gathered for a buffet lunch at the Officers and Faculty Club. The accident occurred about 3: 30 p.m.

"The last words I said to them at the club was telling them how nice it was to see them again," said Ebbert, a career Navy officer and former aviator who is class secretary.

Keane, who Ebbert said was the immediate past president of the Class of '52, lived in Brighton, Mass., before entering the academy. He became a nuclear submarine officer who eventually commanded a submarine, Ebbert said.

Keane, who retired in 1979, had received several decorations, including the Legion of Merit and two Meritorious Service Medals, according to the academy's alumni registry.

Califf, a rower with Ebbert on the academy's crew team, lived in Marion, S.C., before entering the academy. He went on to fly anti-submarine airplanes, including carrier-based S-2s, and eventually commanded an air squadron in Norfolk, Va., Ebbert said.

Ebbert said he heard of the accident yesterday as classmates in the Washington region relayed the news by telephone.

As Ebbert discussed his classmates' careers, he recalled a prank that nearly delayed graduation for the Class of 1952. Some members of the class left their shoes on the field as they marched in their graduation parade, angering the academy superintendent. Some time after that, Ebbert said, the class gave itself a motto: "Tough Shoes to Fill."

Pub Date: 8/10/98

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