Husband, wife and friend swept from pickup

two teens missing

Saved from high water, three perish

Storm's Aftermath

June 29, 2006|By JENNIFER MCMENAMIN AND RON HOLLANDER | JENNIFER MCMENAMIN AND RON HOLLANDER,SUN REPORTERS

MYERSVILLE -- With floodwaters streaming across the road and their vehicle stalled, a married couple and a family friend were stranded. A pickup truck driver stopped to help, authorities said, and the trio - saved from the rising waters - climbed into the open truckbed.

They were on their way down Wolfsville Road in Frederick County in Tuesday night's rain.

By then, the water had topped Jimmy Grossnickle's fence posts and was running 4 feet - maybe deeper - across Wolfsville Road past his farm. It was starting to get dark.

The farmer watched the truck plowing through water above its headlights. And then he saw the three people swept from the truckbed. The driver kept going.

"They looked like they kind of floated out, like they were in inner tubes," Grossnickle said. The passengers, who had been rescued once from the water, began screaming for help.

"We went down in one of the big tractors with some rope. We just couldn't get to them," said Grossnickle, 53, an insurance agent with an 80-acre farm.

"They were caught up on a tree for a short time. But it was too deep. The water was too swift. And we didn't have time. It wasn't but five minutes and they were all swept away again."

Grossnickle said he later encountered the pickup truck driver, caught up in water farther down the road, with three or four young children in the front seat. The driver told Grossnickle that he thought the three adult passengers had voluntarily gotten out of the back of the truck. Others involved in the rescue effort wondered whether the three had jumped as the pickup neared a relative's home. Authorities would not name the truck driver.

Frederick County authorities identified the drowning victims as Jesse R. Haulsee, 24, his wife, Angelia S. Haulsee, 29, and a family friend, Eric C. Zepp, 19, all of the Myersville area. A man standing yesterday afternoon near the creek who identified himself as a relative of the victims said the family did not want to comment.

Fire and water rescue crews from 10 companies worked for 6 1/2 hours, until 3:30 a.m. yesterday, trying to find the passengers. Walking the banks of the churning Middle Creek, firefighters and rescue workers were sometimes forced to their hands and knees to slog through the debris that accumulated as floodwaters raked the area.

Zepp was found three-tenths of a mile away, against a fence, between 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital, said Justin Grossnickle, Myersville's deputy fire chief. Angelia Haulsee's body was found about an hour later across the creek. Her husband's body was located on the creek banks about a half-mile south about 2 a.m., the deputy fire chief said.

Thirty miles to the north, near the Carroll County line, two high school buddies apparently died Tuesday night in the surging brown waters of Little Pipe Creek, Maryland State Police said.

The two youths, Michael White, 14, and Thomas Plunkard, 16, both of Keymar in neighboring Carroll County, told White's father they were going to "play by the river" - about three miles from their homes - at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, police said.

When they did not return, White's father, Tom, went looking for them. He found White's bike and both boys' clothes on the muddy bank, police said.

"Their curiosity may have become deadly," said Sgt. Russell Newell. "The indications are they got swept up by the current."

The creek, at Route 194 and Wolfsville Pike, south of Keymar, was the focus of a day-long search yesterday.

Emergency vehicles vied with television trucks for parking spots near the creek as knots of friends and neighbors spoke in hushed tones about the boys, both students at Walkersville High School.

"They were a lot alike, the very best of friends," said Terri Wiand, a neighbor on Baker Road where White lived with his parents and two older sisters.

Amanda Renner, 16, a neighbor of Plunkard on Warner Road, saw the boys as different from each other. "Mikey [White], he's one of those people who likes to do anything," Renner said. "You throw him an idea, and he's onto it like that."

Renner, who is a senior at Walkersville, saw Plunkard as quieter. "Tom's more independent thinking," she said.

The boys played soccer. They liked dirt-biking. They played video games.

"Mike was just a sweetheart," said his neighbor on Baker Road, Betty Logsdon, who worked with White at the McDonald's in Walkersville after school and on weekends.

"He wasn't your typical teenager, no foul language, no bickering, no arguing. He always treated me with the greatest respect."

jennifer.mcmenamin@baltsun.com ron.hollander@baltsun.com

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