A fiery, four-vehicle crash killed two men early yesterday and closed the Baltimore Beltway west of Interstate 83 in both directions for more than four hours, disrupting traffic for much of the day.
State police identified one of the dead as Tasewell Johnson, 27, of Hopewell, Va. The name of the other victim, an adult male from the Midwest, was being withheld until his family could be notified.
The two-stage accident, which involved three trucks and a passenger car, occurred on the inner loop shortly before 1 a.m. between Greenspring Avenue and the exit to southbound I-83.
A preliminary investigation found that the initial collision took place when a 1986 Volvo driven by Robert M. Perkins of Timonium made what state police called an unsafe lane change and hit a 1993 Ford pickup that was towing a trailer with a vehicle on it.
Police said the driver of the pickup lost control and hit the rear end of a tractor trailer carrying eight vehicles. The car carrier was driven by Michael H. Stephens of Danville, Va. He was not injured.
Sgt. Thornnie Rouse, a state police spokesman, said the pickup ended up partway up the ramp of the car carrier -- forcing the two drivers to stop in the roadway.
After Stephens and the driver of the pickup left their vehicles to assess the damage, a tractor-trailer driven by Johnson crashed into them.
Rouse said the pickup driver was hit by one of the other trucks -- it was not clear which -- and was pronounced dead after being flown by helicopter to Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Johnson was killed in the burning wreckage of his truck, which was towing two trailers carrying commercial supplies, including paint thinner, authorities said.
Perkins, 21, was treated at Sinai Hospital for what police called nonlife-threatening injuries.
The case has been referred to the Baltimore County state's attorney's office for investigation.
Valerie Burnette Edgar, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, said both loops of the Beltway were closed until about 5:30 a.m. About that time, the shoulder of the inner loop was opened so traffic could pass.
The final lanes were reopened at 12:45 p.m., according to the SHA.
Edgar said the difficulty of the cleanup delayed the highway's opening.
She said the surface of the roadway needed repair and that a plow had to be brought in to remove the absorbent material used to soak up spilled gasoline and other chemicals.
The accident was the third fatal crash involving multiple heavy trucks in the Baltimore area this year.
Four people died in January when a gasoline tanker plunged off an Interstate 895 overpass onto Interstate 95 near Elkridge and exploded into a fire that destroyed another tractor-trailer, a pickup truck and a car.
Three people were killed last month on I-95 just north of the Fort McHenry Toll Plaza in a crash of two tractor-trailers, two cars and a minivan.