Dangerous curve now deadly

Boy hurt in Lothian crash dies, spurring calls for repairs to Route 408 turn

January 15, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The death of a 10-year-old boy who was struck by a sport utility vehicle on a stretch of Route 408 in South County last weekend has renewed concerns among nearby residents about what they call a dangerously sharp curve.

Todd Pierre Hicks Jr., of the 1000 block of Mount Zion Marlboro Road in Lothian, was taken off life support late Monday at Children's Hospital in Washington, where he had been in critical condition since the Sunday morning accident.

Hicks is the first child traffic fatality in the county this year. Last year, five people under age 18 - including one under 12 - were killed in traffic accidents, police said.

"When we go out, we fear for our lives," said Patricia Bias, whose house is at the cusp of the curve where the accident occurred. "It's a horrible, horrible, horrible curve."

As she prepared food to take to the Hicks family yesterday, Bias talked about her plans to start a letter-writing campaign. She has lived on Route 408 - locals call it simply Marlboro Road - in Lothian for 20 years and said the posted speed limit is 35 mph, but "everyone goes so much faster."

Although she could not recall another fatal accident in the area, Bias said she has seen several vehicles land in her garden after taking the curve at too high a speed.

There are no speed-control devices, such as speed bumps or humps, and only one sign notes the curve, residents said.

"Unless you really drive Marlboro Road regularly, you're not prepared for the curve," said Bias, whose husband, Harvey, and another neighbor, Lee Dove, helped at the accident scene.

Dove said he stopped traffic until police arrived at the scene.

"With people coming around, they wouldn't have seen what was going on," he said of the accident scene. "It's a very dangerous curve, you better believe that."

Hicks lived a few steps from where the accident occurred. The family moved to the area about four months ago, neighbors said. Family members could not be reached yesterday.

Police said a 1996 Chevrolet Suburban headed south on Route 408 rounded the curve Sunday morning and struck the boy with such force that he landed 140 away.

The Suburban's driver, Arthur Michael Campli, 43, of Lee Jackson Drive in Lothian, told police he saw the boy in the road and tried to stop. Campli was uninjured, police said.

With an investigation continuing into the accident, police spokesman Officer Charles Ravenell said the department could release few details. But police have said they do not believe the driver was speeding or under the influence of alcohol.

The State Highway Administration, which maintains Route 408, will investigate the curve, said David Buck, a spokesman for SHA. In general, he said, "if the road itself is determined to contribute to an accident, we'll look to make improvements." Temporary improvements could include increased lighting and signage, he said.

Harvey Bias said he would like to see the speed dropped to 15 mph around the curve. "Otherwise, next time, it's going to be a pileup," he said.

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