Mourning, inquiries in aftermath of deadly crash

December 11, 2007|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,Sun reporter

By midmorning, the mourners - mostly young couples dressed in black and speaking Russian and Ukrainian in hushed tones - began to arrive at the Baltimore County home of Mikhail and Iryna Petrov.

They came with plastic bags full of food and other necessities, hoping to ease the pain of the couple's extended family and, most of all, Iryna's adult children, Denis, 27, and Sylvia, 26.

The Petrovs were killed along with a friend, Igor Saub, early Sunday when their sport utility vehicle and a Baltimore City firetruck collided. The firetruck was responding to a reported house fire when the accident occurred about 3 a.m.

The accident is believed to be the worst fatal collision involving fire and civilian vehicles in Baltimore in more than 50 years.

"It's a big, big tragedy," said Natalia Fonti, a close friend of the Petrov family. Her son is engaged to Iryna Petrov's daughter, Sylvia.

"They were very friendly and happy and very family-oriented," said Fonti as she stood outside the couple's townhouse yesterday.

Fonti said that Saub, 24, whose home address was not immediately available, was engaged to be married in January.

City police are investigating the accident to determine if either the driver of the firetruck or Iryna Petrov, who was behind the wheel of the SUV, failed to stop at a red light. Fire and police vehicles are required to use lights and sirens and to halt at stop signs and traffic signals when responding to emergencies.

If police investigators determine that the firetruck failed to stop at a signal, they would review the incident with the city state's attorney's office to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against the driver.

A camera over the intersection where the accident occurred - Park Heights Avenue and Clarks Lane - could offer important information, said a police spokesman.

"Video from the camera will be reviewed as part of the accident investigation," said Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the city Police Department and mayor's office.

Clifford said the police investigation will take at least three days to complete, and probably longer, because officers must reconstruct the accident scene, a time-consuming process.

Meanwhile, the state medical examiner's office has begun its own review. Toxicology tests will be performed on samples taken from the victims, said Dr. James Locke, assistant medical examiner. The results of the tests are not expected to be known for several weeks, he said.

Fire officials met yesterday to discuss the accident, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the department, but no official statement was released. He said the four firefighters who were on the firetruck are expected to return to work in a few days. The four men - whose names have not been released - suffered minor injuries. Toxicology tests on them were negative.

The firetruck - Truck 27 - was coming from the Engine Company 45 station house in the 2700 block of Glen Ave. Another firetruck - Engine 29 - was following, and the driver of that vehicle gave officials a statement of what he saw.

"We have nothing new to report as far as the investigation into the accident," Cartwright said yesterday. "We have not heard a word from the Police Department."

The accident comes at a time of intense external scrutiny for the Fire Department. This year, the department has grappled with allegations of racism, a cheating scandal, and the accidental death of a recruit during a flawed training exercise in February.

"We are looking to assist the Police Department in any way we can," said Cartwright.

At the Petrovs' Baltimore County home, friends, many dressed in black, arrived with items for Iryna's children. Their father, a native of Rwanda who lives in South Africa, is on his way to the United states, according to a family member.

Relatives from Ukraine, the Petrovs' native country, have also been notified of their deaths and are also expected to arrive in Baltimore in the next few days, said Fonti. Saub was also from Ukraine, she said.

Fonti said that Iryna Petrov, 49, and Mikhail Petrov, 35, had been married about seven years. They had lived in the townhouse on Jones Valley Circle for most of that time, she said. A friend who was visiting the home said that Mikhail Petrov worked unloading new cars from large cargo ships in Baltimore's port. Another friend said that Iryna Petrov had worked for a period at a Canton beauty salon and spa.

Fonti said that the couple and Saub were on their way home Sunday morning when the accident occurred. She would not say from where the three were returning.

"We have a lot of help," Fonti said before retreating inside the Petrovs' townhouse, "but we need more."

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