Two-way traffic likely not factor in bridge pileup

Investigators probe sequence of events

May 12, 2007|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun reporter

Two-way traffic on the westbound span of the Bay Bridge does not appear to have been a factor in causing the seven-vehicle crash that killed three Eastern Shore residents Thursday, a top police official said yesterday.

Marcus L. Brown, chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said at a news conference yesterday that it might take two months to complete the investigation of the devastating chain-reaction accident -- set off when a trailer came unhitched from the sport utility vehicle that was pulling it.

Yesterday, police identified the those killed in the crash as Randall R. Orff, 47, and his son, Jonathan R. Orff, 19, both of Millington in Kent County, and James H. Ingle, 44, of Preston in Caroline County. Brown said one seriously injured person was transported to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He said four people had minor injuries.

According to Brown, the Orffs were driving in the single eastbound lane in their pickup truck when the accident occurred about 4 p.m. Ingle was driving west in a Honda Civic.

The seven vehicles in the collision were two pickup trucks, a tractor-trailer, a flatbed tow truck, a van, the Honda and the SUV pulling an empty 4-foot-by-6-foot trailer, Brown said.

Brown said investigators were unable yesterday to describe the sequence of events after the trailer came loose. He said police have video coverage of the bridge but that it does not show the specific cause of the crash.

Maryland law requires any trailer to be properly secured, but as of yesterday no tickets had been issued. Brown said investigators were looking into what caused the trailer to come unhitched.

Police would not identify the driver of the SUV except to say he is an adult male who lives in Maryland.

The Bay Bridge consists of a two-lane eastbound span and a three-lane westbound span. Brown said he is aware that allowing two-way traffic on one span has been raised as a safety concern. He said that issue would be considered as part of the department's "after action" study.

Cheryl Sparks, spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, said the agency began to allow two-way traffic during evening rush hour on the westbound span several years ago.

"It's beneficial to the Eastern Shore residents to have that extra lane going back to their homes," Sparks said.

Meanwhile yesterday, details emerged about the lives of the three victims.

Randall Orff, better known as "Randy," had worked as a foreman for Brawner Contracting for about five years, said Jeff Bird, vice president of the company based in Hunt Valley. Jonathan Orff had just started working for Brawner as a laborer about a month ago, Bird said.

Randy Orff was always "upbeat, always smiling, always happy," Bird said. "He was one of those people you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody, anywhere to say something bad about him." Father and son were members of the Crumpton Volunteer Fire Department, said Fire Chief James Hurlock.

Missie Orff, wife and mother to the pair, is a member of the women's auxiliary. Another son, Brandon, is a student at New York Institute of Technology, Hurlock said.

Jonathan Orff, who graduated from Queen Anne's High School last June, completed a vocational education program that certified him as a firefighter, a school spokesman said.

Ingle was on his way from his Preston home to work at a Pizza Hut in Crofton. Restaurant manager John Burggraf described Ingle as a dedicated employee.

Doug Mooy, a co-worker and friend of Ingle, said Ingle and his wife, Debbie, lived in Preston because it is more affordable.

Sun reporters Laura Barnhardt, Chris Guy and Andrea Siegel contributed to this article.

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