Crashes bring rush hours to halt

Spate of accidents, one fatal, snarls commute at both ends

April 28, 1999|By Liz Atwood and Jackie Powder | Liz Atwood and Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

On a day when clear skies and dry roads should have afforded drivers a safe and easy commute, more than a dozen accidents ensnared thousands of motorists yesterday, leaving one driver dead and creating a 10-mile backup in Interstate 95.

The accidents affected both ends of the daily commute, with one deadly crash crushing a car between two trucks and snarling evening rush hour -- jamming some of the same motorists frustrated by the morning accident on I-95.

"It was definitely unusual," said Dave Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, who was caught in an accident on the Jones Falls Expressway going to work.

The problems that turned the typical morning rush-hour headache into a full-blown migraine began about 5: 30 a.m. when the hydraulic flatbed of a tractor-trailer rose unexpectedly and crashed into an overhead sign on I-95 in Rosedale.

That fluke accident was the first of more than a dozen that snagged drivers on area roads. A rush-hour commute that normally takes an average of a half-hour in the Baltimore area took three times as long for many.

A fatal accident near White Marsh about 1: 30 p.m. closed a portion of eastbound Pulaski Highway for more than four hours. Baltimore County police said a car was crushed between two trucks at Middle River Road and Pulaski Highway, killing Bobbi Jo Eaddy, 18, of the 4000 block of Baker Lane in Parkville and causing a vehicle fire.

The flatbed mishap created the most serious problem of the morning, cutting off two of the three interstate routes around the city's southeast side and causing the 10-mile backup on I-95.

"That made this accident particularly devastating to the rush hour, because you had no other alternatives," said Lori Vidal, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, which manages and operates the state's toll facilities.

The mishap occurred when the hydraulic trailer bed on the tractor began to rise. The trailer crashed into the sign just before Chesaco Avenue and was separated from the tractor, said state police Cpl. Michael Gavel of the JFK Highway barracks.

One car behind the trailer was hit by debris from the trailer bed, and a truck struck by the trailer axle spun several times.

No one was seriously injured, but the accident forced the closure of all but one lane of southbound I-95, stalling an estimated 60,000 drivers. State police, the Maryland Transportation Authority and the SHA tried to ease the crush, using message boards to advise motorists of alternate routes and relaying news to radio and television stations.

Drivers pouring out of Bel Air and White Marsh crept along Route 7, U.S. 40, the Beltway and Belair Road, creating traffic jams on those roads.

Mobile telephone companies reported an increase in calls as motorists tried to get word out about their whereabouts.

The driver of the tractor-trailer was Paul S. Linthicum, of the 2600 block of Winters Run Road in Joppa, police said. State police have charged Linthicum, 47, with negligent driving, and the investigation is continuing, Gavel said. Police reopened I-95 by 10: 30 a.m.

A number of smaller incidents contributed to the rush-hour frustration. State police at the Golden Ring barracks handled 15 accidents between 7 a.m. and 9: 30 a.m., and officers were filling out traffic reports until late in the afternoon.

Pub Date: 4/28/99

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