Harford man, 57, dies sledding at home

He hit tree at base of icy backyard

boy, 7, hurt in separate accident near Bel Air

February 17, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

The long, sloping hill behind Gary Jastrab's home near Bel Air offered breathtaking views of a rural landscape dotted with silos and farms, and when it snowed, neighbors came to his backyard for knuckle-whitening sled rides.

Yesterday, Jastrab, 57, of the 2400 block of Eagle View Drive was sledding with an adult nephew about 3:30 p.m. when he soared down the ice-coated hill on an orange saucer and crashed into a small tree at its base. He was knocked unconscious and pronounced dead at the scene by medics from the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, according to a police spokeswoman.

The sledding accident was one of two in the Bel Air area yesterday. A 7-year-old boy was hurt near Forest Lakes Elementary School and transported by helicopter to Johns Hopkins Hospital for injuries that officials said were not life-threatening.

A neighbor described a frantic scene in which Jastrab's relatives sought assistance as they waited for emergency responders to arrive. Kathy Mallamo, 57, said a man who identified himself as Jastrab's nephew came to her door and told her that 10 to 15 minutes had passed since he called for an ambulance.

"They were told they didn't have an ambulance available," Mallamo said.

There were several calls requiring assistance about the same time, including the two sledding accidents, a house fire and a motor vehicle accident, said Rich Gardiner, a spokesman for the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Foundation.

Gardiner said the first call was received at 3:37 p.m. and dispatched three minutes later. Medics arrived at 3:50 p.m. "The ambulance was very busy, and they got there in a reasonable amount of time," he said.

The crash appeared to be a case of terrible luck, officials said. The tree that he hit was only a few inches in diameter and stood alone at the bottom of the hill.

Neighbors said Jastrab recently retired from the Department of Defense. His wife is an elementary school teacher, and they have a 23-year-old son. Jastrab was friendly and could often be seen walking his dog, they said.

Neighbor Al Thatcher, 57, sat down in his family room with a stunned look when informed of the accident. "It's a total shock," he said, shaking his head. "It just shows you what can happen so unexpectedly."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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