Procession was for police officer's father

Closing of I-97 for funeral led to crash that killed 2

May 25, 2008|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun reporter

The funeral procession that led Anne Arundel County police to shut down Interstate 97 in Glen Burnie on Friday, starting a chain of events that led to the death of a pregnant woman and her baby, was for the father of a county police officer, a police spokesman said yesterday.

The spokesman, Lt. Jeffrey Silverman, said all southbound lanes of the highway were shut down about 11:30 a.m. so the procession could safely merge onto I-97 from Route 100. He said he did not know how many vehicles were in the procession.

Silverman said that the department has escorted more than 150 processions in the past year and that it is not uncommon for police to shut down highways. But he said the department planned to review its policies to ensure that police were performing the details safely. "Any time something like this happens, we're certainly going to review our policies and procedures and determine we're doing the proper thing," Silverman said.

No charges have been filed in the six-vehicle crash that killed Maria J. Lizama-Sanchez, 31, and her baby, injured six others and shut down the highway for nearly three hours at the start of the holiday weekend. State police are investigating the crash.

Lizama-Sanchez and her husband, Walter Sanchez of Glen Burnie, were driving south on I-97 in a 2001 Dodge Caravan. After they stopped for the procession, a tractor-trailer driven by Lamoyan W. Lee plowed into the rear of their vehicle, forcing it off the left side of the highway, police said.

Lizama-Sanchez, who was seven months pregnant, was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where she gave birth. The baby died at 12:30 p.m., and the new mother died less than two hours later, state police said.

Walter Sanchez was treated for injuries. Attempts to reach him yesterday were unsuccessful.

The funeral procession was for the father of Matthew Wires, a county police officer assigned to the department's Eastern District. Wires, who was named officer of the year this month for his district, was unavailable to comment yesterday, said a woman who answered the phone at his home.

Among those injured in the accident were James C. Shaffer, 60, and his wife, Anne L. Shaffer, 59, of Annapolis.

James Shaffer said he had just stopped the couple's car when he heard a loud crash. Suddenly, a car plowed into their vehicle, and the air bags deployed. "It was very scary to go through the crash, because it was so loud and so close," he said. "But it was even scarier when we turned around and saw the devastation behind us."

Derek Diehl, 33, of Glen Burnie said he was driving on I-97 when he came up behind the procession, which he said consisted of 12 to 15 vehicles.

"It wasn't a huge, huge procession," Diehl said. "And the fact that on a holiday weekend - that traffic's usually triple to quadruple early on Friday - everybody's trying to get out. They had all three lanes of 97 South blocked. Every last lane. For a normal funeral procession, you don't get that."

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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