Family grieves for victim of crash

Elkridge woman, 23, killed in head-on collision was taking two friends home

Howard County

October 14, 2003|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Lisa M. Foster was finally hitting her stride. The 23-year-old got a job last week as a teacher's assistant and bought the car of her dreams: a silver 2003 Toyota Celica.

And Foster, a former co-captain of Howard High School's girls softball team, still loved the sport so much that she played twice a week with two coed teams in Glen Burnie.

"She told my mom that her luck was finally changing," said Foster's sister, Christy Staruk, 26, who lives across the street from her mother in Elkridge. "Everything was going so great. She had gotten the job, she had gotten the car she loved."

But early Saturday, Foster's recent run of good fortune took a tragic turn. While acting as designated driver after a night of softball and hanging out with teammates, Foster was killed in her Celica in a head-on crash in Linthicum.

"She usually was the driver, just because she wasn't the drinker," said Foster's mother, Audrey, during an interview yesterday at her home. "She was the one doing the right thing. Unfortunately, doing the right thing doesn't ... "

The grief-stricken mother couldn't finish the sentence.

According to Anne Arundel County police, a driver in a 1997 Lexus crossed the double yellow line in an attempt to pass two vehicles and struck Foster's car head-on in the 6800 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., near Nursery Road.

The Lexus then bounced back and struck one of the cars it passed. The driver, identified by police as a 19-year-old Glen Burnie resident, remained in serious condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Foster was trapped in her car and died at the scene by the time police arrived about 12:20 a.m., police said.

Two friends, whom she was taking home, were taken to Shock Trauma. Michael R. Smith, 26, was treated and released. Dionne E. Jones, 24, remained hospitalized yesterday in serious condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

An Anne Arundel police spokeswoman said yesterday that the accident was under investigation and the results would be turned over to the state's attorney office when completed.

Staruk said her family and friends were struggling to comprehend the loss of her sister: She was a fervent Cal Ripken Jr. fan, a passionate softball player and a young woman on the path to becoming a teacher.

The 1997 Howard High graduate received an associate's degree from Catonsville Community College and a bachelor's degree in early elementary education and American studies from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She would have turned 24 Friday.

Foster, who lived with her mother, was in the process of crafting a full work and school schedule. She worked part time as a waitress in an Arundel Mills mall restaurant, but she planned to cut back to just weekend shifts after she learned last week that she had been hired as a teacher's assistant at Dunloggin Middle School in Ellicott City.

She also was making plans to attend graduate school in January to pursue a master's degree in teaching so she could become a full-fledged teacher.

Yesterday afternoon, Audrey Foster sat at the dining room table in her townhouse, her eyes swollen from tears and lack of sleep as she sorted through hundreds of family photographs. She was putting together a photo collage of Lisa for her memorial service today.

Foster said she was working the night shift at Martin Seafood Co. in Jessup when she learned her daughter had died. Two Anne Arundel police officers arrived at her workplace at 4 a.m. and asked to speak with her. Somehow, she said, she knew why before the officers said anything.

"I knew something awful had happened ... " Foster said, as friends and family stopped by the home yesterday. "And all I wanted to do was hold her."

One of Foster's best friends from college recalled her friend's simple generosity. "Everything she'd do for you, she made it seem like it was no big deal," Heather Profilio said in a telephone interview. Profilio, who lives in Hagerstown, had hoped to see Foster this weekend.

"She called me Wednesday night when she was test-driving [her new car], and I was going to come down and see it this weekend," she said.

Foster's mother said Lisa had overcome scoliosis, a lateral curvature of the spine - including the insertion of two steel rods in her back in middle school - to continue playing softball. She had boxes and closets filled with Ripken memorabilia, her family said, and she always wore No. 8 - Ripken's number - on her softball jerseys. If that number wasn't available, she would choose No. 88.

Dave Vezzi, Howard High School's softball coach, remembered her as an excellent player with a tremendous personality. He said Foster was on a team that went to the state semifinals, one that won a regional championship and another that won a county championship.

"She was a great person, a great team leader," Vezzi said. "Just the kind of kid that a coach loves to have on his team."

A memorial service will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at Gary L. Kaufman Funeral Home in Elkridge, followed by a Mass, Foster's family said.

Sun staff writer Laura Vozzella contributed to this article.

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