I-70 crash kills driver, halts traffic for hours

Car crossing median strip causes truck to jackknife

`Could have been avoided'

July 09, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A driver trying to make a U-turn through a median strip crossover on Interstate 70 yesterday set in motion an accident in which a flatbed truck crushed another car, killing its driver, Maryland State Police said.

The overturned truck splayed across all three westbound lanes of I-70, just beyond the Beltway, stopping all westbound traffic for about five hours and spurring miles-long traffic tie-ups around the heavily traveled area where the interstate meets the Baltimore Beltway in western Baltimore County.

Police said the accident happened about 11:30 a.m., when the driver of a white 2001 Mitsubishi Galant made a sharp left turn from the center lane of the westbound side of the highway - across the fast lane - in an effort to use the crossover. The area is marked with signs that say: "For authorized emergency vehicles only."

"This all could have been avoided," said Sgt. Thornnie Rouse, a state police spokesman. "The driver simply could have gone to the next exit."

State police gave this account:

During the Mitsubishi's maneuver, the drivers of both the flatbed truck, which was immediately behind the Mitsubishi, and a blue 1993 Chevrolet Lumina in the fast lane slammed their brakes.

The Mitsubishi made it to the median, but the truck jackknifed, smashed into the driver's side of the Lumina, hit a guardrail and toppled over.

A 38,000-pound roll of steel was thrown from the flatbed, and a small amount of diesel fuel leaked onto the roadway from the truck's gas tank. Crews from the Maryland Department of the Environment were able to contain the spill, authorities said.

The Lumina driver, identified as Raymond Schroder, 57, of Westminster, was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was in the Lumina.

The truck driver, Joseph W. Carmine, 33, of Wintersville, Ohio, was taken by ambulance to Northwest Hospital Center in Randallstown for injuries that were not life-threatening. He was transporting the steel for Falcon Corp., a Baltimore-based company, police said.

Police did not release the name of the Mitsubishi's driver. It is state police policy to forward the investigations of serious or fatal accidents to a state's attorney's office - in this case, Baltimore County - for possible charges, Rouse said.

At the accident scene yesterday afternoon, troopers measured and photographed long black skid marks trailing from just before the turnaround to the site of the crash, about 100 feet away.

A red tarp covered the Lumina, but when a gust of wind blew it back, it revealed a crumpled engine and destroyed passenger compartment. Only half of the car roof remained intact.

Near the car sat the steel coil, and across the highway, the truck lay on its driver's side while the trailer's wheels faced the sky.

Traffic was not allowed on westbound I-70 between the Beltway and U.S. 29 until about 4:30 p.m. as emergency crews investigated and cleaned up the site. Meanwhile, traffic crawled on the eastbound side of the highway as drivers slowed near the accident scene.

Both directions of the Beltway also were affected, particularly the outer loop, which saw backups well into the afternoon rush hour between U.S. 40 and Reisterstown Road, police said.

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