Man killed in accident on I-95

Three-vehicle pileup closes northbound lanes for 8 hours, snarling traffic

November 15, 2001|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County man was killed and traffic was snarled for hours yesterday morning when two trucks and a minivan caught fire after a series of crashes on Interstate 95 in White Marsh

The accident closed the northbound lanes of I-95 between the Baltimore Beltway and the Harford County line for about eight hours as emergency officials attempted to clear twisted, charred wreckage.

Eric Raymond Bates, 31, of Blue Spire Circle in Middle River, was killed when his van struck a tractor-trailer that had overturned about 4:50 a.m. after the driver lost control. Bates' van caught fire when it was hit by a tanker truck.

Because of the accident, officials diverted all northbound traffic onto Pulaski Highway or Philadelphia Road, forcing frustrated drivers to creep along in a backup that stretched for miles.

"It's 11:15 [a.m.], I've been on Route 40 since 9:15 and I'm now just past Ebenezer Road" about five miles north of the Beltway, said Michael Sabo, of Northeast Baltimore, as he tried to get to work in Aberdeen. "And I still got 12 miles to go."

A second accident briefly closed the inner loop of the Beltway between Route 7 and Pulaski Highway in Golden Ring about 10:30 a.m.

The first accident - which also caused a seven-mile backup into Harford County in the southbound lanes of I-95 during the height of the morning rush hour - started when a tractor-trailer overturned a half-mile north of the White Marsh interchange.

Trooper Chris Spinner, of the Maryland State Police John F. Kennedy Highway barracks, said Bates' van smashed into the truck, which was driven by Russell W. Elliot, 39, of Cleveland. A tanker truck, driven by Lee E. Rumple, 45, of Wilmington, Del., then hit Bate's van, which burst into flames.

The fire quickly spread to all three vehicles.

The tanker truck was hauling an ingredient used to make soap, Spinner said. As a precaution, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Baltimore County hazardous materials unit were called to the scene. Spinner said the cargo was "nonhazardous and nonflammable."

Bates was pronounced dead at the scene. Rumple was treated at Franklin Square Hospital and released. Elliot was not injured.

Spinner said investigators are trying to determine why Elliot lost control of his truck, which was hauling vinyl fencing.

Spinner said two of the three southbound lanes of the interstate were closed until 7:30 a.m. because they were blocked by emergency vehicles. Even after those lanes were reopened, rubberneckers caused traffic heading toward the city to back up to Route 152 in Harford County.

The situation was far worse for drivers traveling north, because all northbound lanes remained closed until 1 p.m.

"We know all alternative routes were packed," Spinner said.

Thelma Greathouse, who works at Tom and Tina's Family Restaurant in the 11200 block of Pulaski Highway near Gunpowder Falls State Park said traffic was moving past the restaurant at 5 to 10 mph for most of the morning.

The second accident occurred when the driver of a pickup truck, who has not been identified, struck a tractor-trailer on the inner loop just west of the Pulaski Highway exit.

Trooper Greg Hahn, of the Golden Ring barracks, said the tractor-trailer was stopped on the highway waiting to be detoured onto Pulaski Highway. The inner loop was closed while the driver of the pickup truck was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center with serious injuries.

That accident was cleared about noon.

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