Deaths of 3 in crash leave family shattered

Parkville boys, 1 and 7, and father are mourned

August 20, 2004|By Joe Nawrozki and Sara Neufeld | Joe Nawrozki and Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Muhammad and Aisha Khan were headed to New Jersey on Wednesday to visit a relative and pick up their 9-year-old daughter Sana. With the couple were their three other children, Saif, 7, Maryam, 3, and Haider, 1.

On Interstate 95 near Elkton, something went terribly wrong.

The Parkville family's sport utility vehicle clipped a guard rail and flipped over multiple times, killing 39-year-old Muhammad Khan and both his sons, Saif and Haider. Aisha Khan, 29, had been driving the family's silver 2002 Ford Explorer. She and Maryam were hospitalized.

Police said all three children had been thrown from the vehicle.

Yesterday, family members and friends gathered at the Khan family home, a two-story, stone-front house on the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, protected from the sounds of busy White Marsh Boulevard by a wall of trees.

They were grappling with the agonizing details of tragedy: whether to bury Muhammad Khan and his sons here or in his native Pakistan, and how to tell Sana that her father and two brothers had died when they could hardly believe it themselves.

"Last night we were all crying, and she asked about the crying," said Mustafa Khan, Muhammad Khan's younger brother. "We told her somebody died back home in Pakistan."

In the muggy afternoon, Muhammad Khan's mother, Saphia Begum, arrived after visiting her daughter-in-law at a Newark, Del., hospital. By the time she reached the front porch, she was sobbing. Once inside, she let out piercing wails of grief.

Muhammad was the middle of three sons, Mustafa Khan said. He added that his brother grew up in Sialkot, Pakistan, near the Indian border, where his parents arranged for him to marry Aisha. The couple moved to the United States about 12 years ago, first to New York and to Baltimore soon thereafter.

Muhammad Khan owned two pizza parlors in the Baltimore area, his brother said. He described Aisha Khan as a doting stay-at-home mother.

Sana is scheduled to enter fourth grade at Carney Elementary School this month, according to Baltimore County school officials. Saif was supposed to enter second grade there.

Speaking softly, Mustafa Khan stood on the porch yesterday and remembered his brother as a happy, polite man who never spoke ill of anyone.

"He was the most helping person I've seen," he said. "Everyone I know who knows him loves him."

The eldest of the Khan brothers, Asis, lives in New Jersey with his wife and children, and Sana had been visiting them for four days before the crash. The Khan family was headed there to get her, relatives said.

Maryland State Police said Aisha Khan was driving the family's SUV north on I-95 in the middle lane about 4:30 p.m. when she decided to change to the left lane.

At that instant, the driver of a vehicle in front of the Khans' made the same decision because the right lane was closed for construction, police said.

When Khan realized they were headed for the same place, she veered to the left shoulder, police said. But she apparently overcorrected her steering after riding over a rumble strip, and the vehicle clipped a guard rail and flipped over seven or eight times, police said.

Both adults were wearing seat belts, police said. Young Haider was believed to have been in a child's car seat, and investigators do not know why he was thrown from the vehicle. Police said they found the car seat strapped in.

Police said they have not determined whether Saif and Maryam were wearing seat belts. Investigators, mindful of Aisha Khan's grief, had not yet asked her that question, state police spokesman Sgt. Thornnie Rouse said yesterday.

No charges had been filed in connection with the accident.

Aisha and Maryam Khan were listed in good condition last night - the mother at Christiana Hospital and her daughter at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The accident left even a 20-year state police veteran badly shaken.

"All fatalities are bad, but this was the worst for me," Rouse said. "As the father of a 9-year-old, I can't imagine what Mrs. Khan went through after being told that her husband and two children were killed."

At the Khan home yesterday, relatives were turning to their Muslim faith to provide comfort.

"God took them back," Mustafa Khan said. "They were God's gift to us in the first place."

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