Bay Bridge crash victim was USA Today golf writer

Kent Island resident killed after leaving dog at day care

April 19, 2011|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Harry Blauvelt had just dropped off his beloved yellow lab, Elvis, at doggy day care Monday and was returning home to Kent Island when his car became disabled on the Bay Bridge.

The retired USA Today golf writer, who chronicled the rise of Tiger Woods during a long career in sports journalism, had stepped out of his 2001 Honda Accord when, police said, a 2003 International truck slammed into the vehicle and pushed it into Blauvelt. The 70-year-old Chester resident was flung from the bridge's eastbound span into the water more than 50 feet below. Pulled from the bay by the crew of a police boat, he was pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Blauvelt became the victim of a freakish accident on a day when three men were plucked from the water under the bridge within a six-hour span. In the other cases, one man died and another was seriously injured after they left separate vehicles on the westbound span and went over the side.

Blauvelt's widow and a close friend remembered him yesterday as a dedicated sportswriter and a man who was passionate about scuba diving, Navy football, Washington Capitals hockey, movies, "The Wire" and his dog.

Ellen Gale, his wife, said Harry and Elvis were a familiar sight in Chester. "They would walk the whole neighborhood together," she said.

"He led a full, adventurous lifestyle," Gale said. "Everyone has a Harry story, and no two will be the same."

Blauvelt spent a long career as a sportswriter, joining Gannett newspapers in 1985. During the later stages of his career, he covered the professional golf tour, following Woods from his first championships to his eventual domination of the sport. Blauvelt retired in 2004.

Reid Cherner, a former golf editor and now a reporter at USA Today, said Woods enjoyed his greatest successes when Blauvelt was present at his tournaments.

"I don't think Tiger won a major without Harry being there," Cherner said. "If Harry wasn't there, Tiger didn't win."

Hal Bodley, a longtime USA Today columnist and baseball editor until he left the paper in 2007, recalled Blauvelt's "tireless energy and contagious personality."

"No assignment was too big — or too small — for him. He approached each one with enthusiasm, rather than grouse about something he was not that interested in," Bodley said.

While golf was his job, it was not his sport. Cherner said Blauvelt had given it up before they met about 15 years ago. Gale said Blauvelt was a devoted fan of other sports, something they had in common during the 16 years they were together.

"On our first date, he came to Boston and took me to a Celtics playoff game," she said. The next date was a Boston Bruins hockey game. "He knew how to impress and do all the fun things," she said.

Gale said Blauvelt was a New York City native who moved frequently when he was young, living at times in Oklahoma and British Columbia, among other places. She said he worked for the Merced Sun in California and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin before coming back east to work for USA Today in 1990.

"This was the longest he lived in one place," she said. Having traveled extensively during his career, Blauvelt "was happy to stay at home and enjoy the Eastern Shore" in retirement, Gale said.

Blauvelt had no children.

Like many other Kent Island residents, Blauvelt was deeply concerned about matters affecting the Bay Bridge. He was quoted in late 2004 in the Annapolis Capital expressing dissatisfaction about the bridge in a public meeting after the disclosure that the Maryland Transportation Authority had been forced to redo faulty paving of the bridge deck.

"Having to do this again is cruel and unusual punishment," Blauvelt was quoted as saying.

Gale said Blauvelt was no fan of driving on the bridge.

"If you live in this area, unfortunately, it's part of your life," she said.

Sgt. Jonathan Green, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said the driver of the truck that hit Blauvelt's car has been identified as Enos Hutton Sage, 63, of Severn. A check of court records shows that Sage was convicted of going 74 mph in a 55-mph zone in 2009.

Green said that the first of two men who went over the side of the westbound span Monday afternoon was being treated after having being transported to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. The 21-year-old from Calvert County was said to have received "life-threatening" injuries when he left his 2008 Toyota sedan about 12:30 p.m. and fell from a height of about 180 feet in a possible suicide attempt.

The second man pulled from the water under the westbound span, who was later pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center, apparently left another Toyota being driven by a female relative and fell from a similar height, Green said. The spokesman said the victim had been identified as a 38-year-old resident of Salisbury.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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