- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2000

A South Carolina driver involved in the crash that killed five persons on the Springfield, Va., 'mixing bowl' interchange Saturday morning was charged yesterday with making an improper lane change.
The misdemeanor charge against James Richardson, 47, of Columbia, S.C., carries a maximum penalty of $200, said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police.
Mr. Richardson's sport utility vehicle struck the rear of a dump truck as the vehicles headed north on Interstate 95 where it intersects with the Capital Beltway, causing the truck to veer across five lanes, crash through a guardrail and crush two vehicles in the southbound car-pool lanes.
"The traffic summons will be issued today," Mrs. Caldwell said yesterday. "We don't anticipate filing additional charges. Mr. Richardson is deeply concerned. He has been cooperating and returning all of our telephone calls."
Mrs. Caldwell said alcohol is not suspected as a factor in the crash.
Investigators had difficulty reconstructing the crash and determining the truck's speed because there were no skid marks at the scene.
After interviewing more than a dozen witnesses and sorting through conflicting testimony, police determined Mr. Richardson was at fault.
Initially, police had focused their investigation on the dump-truck driver, Eduardo Benavidez, 35, of Triangle, Va., an immigrant from El Salvador, who was charged Saturday with felony hit-and-run and reckless driving. Prosecutors dropped the charges a few hours later.
Mr. Benavidez works for OSA Waste, which primarily hauls construction debris, said Pete Peterson, Mr. Benavidez's supervisor and an assistant fleet manager with Owen & Sparrow of Lorton.
Mr. Benavidez, who has lived in the United States for 11 years, has worked for OSA Waste for five or six months, said A.J. Neville, safety director with Owen & Sparrow. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Supervisors said yesterday Mr. Benavidez is so distraught, he left his shift early yesterday morning. "He's very upset about the accident," Mr. Neville said. "He came in this morning for work and then went home shortly after because he felt ill."
The accident Saturday was called one of the worst in 20 years in Northern Virginia.
Among those killed in the crash were Scott Klurfeld, 47, and his wife, Janis, 51. The McLean, Va., couple's 14-year-old son, Zachary, was in serious condition at Inova Fairfax Hospital. A friend of Zachary's, also 14, remained in critical condition. His identity was not released.
Three persons in another southbound car also were killed: Russell Surratt, 29, and wife Inna Surratt, 30, of Arlington, Va., along with a friend, Jacqueline Ernst, 60, of Herndon, Va.
Mr. Richardson was treated for minor injuries along with a passenger, Sandra Reardon, 48, also of Columbia, S.C.
Meanwhile yesterday, hundreds of family and friends packed the Rodef Shalom Temple in Falls Church to pay their final respects to the Klurfelds. The couple were on their way to Zachary's soccer game in Quantico when they were killed.
During a traditional Jewish funeral, Janis and Scott Klurfeld were remembered as "loving, devoted parents" who dedicated their lives to their two children, Zachary and Molly, a freshman at Cornell University in upstate New York.
Zachary is an eighth-grader at Landon School in Bethesda, Md.
Mr. Klurfeld was a Princeton graduate who was a lawyer with Swidler & Berlin in Georgetown. In his free time, he coached a youth lacrosse team. Many of the players attended yesterday's services.
"Mr. Klurfeld was really nice and very patient," said Robert Jordan, 12, one of Mr. Klurfeld's players who attended the funeral. "He helped me a lot that I became one of the best players on the team. With Mr. Klurfeld as our coach, we always made it to the championships."
Mrs. Klurfeld who has two grown sons from a previous marriage, was a homemaker whose hobbies included reading and participation in a book club.
"She was such a wonderful woman, so full of life," said one friend who quietly sobbed as she walked out of the temple. "They both were such good-hearted people who enjoyed life, who helped so many. This is such a tragedy."
After the funeral, mourners proceeded to National Memorial Park in Falls Church, Va., where the Klurfelds were buried on a hilltop overlooking the park. After the two wooden coffins were lowered slowly into the ground, the mourners stood over the open graves and quietly said a prayer in Hebrew to remember the couple.
Then, one by one, each family member threw some soil on top of the two coffins before leaving the cemetery.
"It's so cold and so sad," said family friend Beth Strickland. "It's so sad to see how two lives can be stolen like this."
Officials at Landon School yesterday offered grief counseling to students, parents and teachers who knew the Klurfelds.
"We are saddened and shocked by this and eagerly await Zachary's return," said Jeanne Hamrick, the school's communications director. "The Klurfeld family touched so many lives at Landon School. They will be missed."
Jacqueline Ernst, who worked at a Virginia packing supply company, sold Amway with her friends, the Surratts of Arlington. Family members still don't know why she was with them Saturday morning.
"She was supposed to be in Herndon that morning doing odd jobs," said a woman who answered the phone at the Ernst residence and described herself as a longtime friend of the family. "It's still hard to talk about it. We were prepared for the worst when we found out that Jacki had breast cancer. But she beat it. That's what makes this so hard now."
Another person involved in Saturday's crash sobbed at recalling the scene.
"I am better physically but not emotionally," said a tearful Sandra Reardon, a computer specialist, who was in the passenger seat of Mr. Richardson's car and is back in South Carolina. "It is going to take a long time."

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