6 road deaths in 24 hours

All but one were preventable, authorities say

August 31, 2007|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun reporter

It was a deadly day on Maryland roads.

The 24-hour period from noon Wednesday to noon yesterday brought six deaths in five collisions in the state. The victims, two male and four female, ranged in age from 17 to 65. All were Marylanders.

Last year, Maryland had 651 traffic deaths - a rate of just fewer than two a day. If a toll of six a day were sustained during a year, the state would have 2,190 deaths annually.

Three of the deaths occurred in three separate crashes in Anne Arundel County. Two died in a head-on collision in Carroll County. One died in a fiery three-vehicle crash in Calvert County.

For a time yesterday, it appeared the toll would be higher. Five vehicles were involved in a crash and fire on Interstate 95 near White Marsh Boulevard at 11:24 a.m. The northbound lanes of I-95 were closed for about two hours, but nobody was killed. Two people were hospitalized.

In the fatal crashes, the apparent causes were a combination of the familiar - alcohol and driver errors - and the unusual.

The 24-hour period began at 12:15 p.m. with the only one of the five crashes that might have been unpreventable. William Richard Romansky, 65, lost control of his truck as a result of what was described as a medical emergency and crashed into a house in the 100 block of Riviera Drive in Riviera Beach. The Pasadena resident was later pronounced dead at Baltimore-Washington Medical Center as a result of that medical condition - leaving it unclear how his death would be classified. A 9-year-old passenger survived.

About 4 p.m., only blocks away, Lisa Ann Madej of Pasadena failed to stop at a stop sign and crashed into a tree near Creek and Lake roads in Riviera Beach, Anne Arundel County police said. The Pasadena woman died at the same hospital as Romansky.

The fatalities continued into the evening in Carroll County, where a Baltimore County couple died about 7:15 p.m. in an accident that police described as alcohol-related.

Curtis Jenkins, 45, and his wife, Verna Jenkins, 42, were driving on Route 91 south of Altondale Road in Finksburg with their 3-year-old granddaughter when a Chevrolet Silverado pickup driven by Delton Clay Glass, 42, of Finksburg crossed the center line and hit the Jenkinses' GMC Suburban sport utility vehicle, police said.

Curtis and Verna Jenkins, residents of Upperco, were pronounced dead at the scene. The granddaughter was in good condition yesterday at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Glass was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was in serious condition last night.

Glass was charged yesterday with two counts of vehicular manslaughter. "Alcohol is being listed as a contributing factor in this crash," a police statement said.

Another collision that involved crossing the center line took the life of a 17-year-old Queen Anne's County girl a few hours later on Generals Highway - becoming the third fatality in Anne Arundel in less than 12 hours.

Amy Michelle Ross of Stevensville was driving a Toyota Celica south when she crossed into the opposite lane for an unknown reason, police said.

The driver of the oncoming tractor-trailer, Susan Marie Oldendick, 36, of Edgewood, tried to veer toward the shoulder, but the Toyota slammed into the truck.

Ross was pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center. Oldendick was taken to Baltimore-Washington Medical Center for treatment. Police said neither speed nor drugs nor alcohol was a factor in the collision.

The morning brought yet another fatality.

About 10:50 a.m., Erica D. Weems of St. Leonard in Calvert County was killed when her car was struck from behind and pushed under an oncoming tractor-trailer, causing a fire that engulfed both vehicles and nearly ignited a convenience store's gas pumps.

Maryland State Police say the crash began with a rear-end collision as the 36-year-old victim waited in a 2002 Dodge Neon to make a left turn on state Route 231 near a bridge over the Patuxent River. According to investigators, Weems' car was struck by a 2004 Toyota Corolla driven by 60-year-old Sallie N. Harding of Hollywood in St. Mary's County.

Weems' car became wedged under the truck, driven by Stephen O. Dixon, 67, of Mechanicsville. Both vehicles came to a stop after crashing into two gasoline pumps at a convenience store. Police say quick thinking by the store manager, who pulled an emergency shut-off switch, prevented the pumps from rupturing and igniting.

Police and rescue workers were unable to free Weems, who was trapped under the truck.

Dixon was able to get out of the truck before it burst into flames. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and released. Harding, the driver of the third vehicle, refused treatment.

The fatalities occurred at the end of a month that consistently ranks as the deadliest on the nation's roads - largely because of high volumes of vacation traffic. But none of the collisions involved out-of-state drivers, and they occurred at midweek, when crash levels are usually lower than on weekends.

Dave Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said no figures were available on the number of fatalities on the state's roads so far this year. But he said he believes there has been a recent spike in the numbers.

At a news conference about drunken driving held Wednesday, just before the beginning of the 24-hour period, Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said the public needs to change the way it thinks of traffic crashes.

"They're not accidents. They're collisions. They're preventable," he said.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Anica Butler, Laura McCandlish and Chris Guy contributed to this article.

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