Two women, including a Johns Hopkins University student, were killed yesterday in a six-vehicle accident in the southbound lanes of the Jones Falls Expressway that was caused by an elderly man driving the wrong way, police said.
Police said the 85-year-old man entered the wrong ramp at either the Druid Park Lake Drive/28th Street or North Avenue exit and began traveling north in the southbound lanes about 5: 15 p.m.
The man, who was driving a 1991 Ford Taurus, collided with a 1998 Saturn north of the Falls Road exit and then collided with several other vehicles, police said.
"He struck the Saturn first, then he ping-ponged off the other ones," said Lt. Carl Gutberlet, commander of the city police Traffic Division. "He started striking the other cars and the other cars started striking him. He was disoriented."
The three occupants of the Saturn -- a 21-year-old male driver and two female passengers, ages 24 and 25 -- were trapped in their vehicle for about a half-hour and had to be extricated by firefighters.
They were transported to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where the two women died a short time later. The driver was in serious but stable condition last night, Gutberlet said.
The elderly man also had to be extricated from his vehicle, and was transported to Shock Trauma, where he was in grave condition last night, Gutberlet said.
Three passengers in other vehicles involved in the accident were also injured. Two were transported to Shock Trauma and one to Sinai Hospital, all with nonlife-threatening injuries, Gutberlet said.
Gutberlet identified one of the victims as Shwe Mon, 24, a Johns Hopkins student with a Vermont driver's license. Police declined to identify the other victims last night because relatives had not been notified.
The driver of the Saturn and the other female victim are believed to have been visiting Shwe Mon, Gutberlet said. One of them had a Virginia license, he said.
The accident closed the southbound lanes of the expressway between Northern Parkway and North Avenue for about three hours, snarling traffic as hundreds of motorists trying to reach the Baltimore Waterfront Festival and other events downtown were diverted to city streets.
The Baltimore Opera Company's performance of Puccini's "La Boheme" at the Lyric Opera House on West Mount Royal Avenue was delayed for 10 minutes because patrons were stuck in traffic.
The expressway reopened at 8: 15 p.m.
Gutberlet said it is "not unusual" for drivers to occasionally become disoriented and enter a wrong entrance to the expressway.
The 85-year-old man was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Gutberlet said.
"Speed was not a factor, either; it was just the fact of him going the wrong way against inbound traffic," Gutberlet said, noting it was one of the worst accidents on the expressway in several years.
Gutberlet said the state's attorney's office would have to decide whether to file charges against the elderly man.
The expressway is expected to be closed again from about 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. Tuesday for accident reconstruction, Gutberlet said.