- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2001

An altercation between two drivers on Interstate 95 yesterday killed a third driver in a morning rush-hour crash that shut down southbound traffic on the highway for hours, Maryland State Police said.

What's more, many motorists seeking to avoid the I-95 tieup by using the Baltimore-Washington Parkway got caught in a five-mile backup after a multivehicle accident closed the southbound lanes of that highway yesterday morning.

According to state police, Sheshadri Ghante, 41, of Laurel died at the scene of the I-95 crash, where his small pickup was sandwiched between a Mack truck and a compact car driven by one of the arguing drivers.

Mr. Ghante was traveling south near the I-95 intersection with Route 216 shortly before 7 a.m., when he slowed his 2000 Chevrolet S-10 pickup to avoid hitting a 2001 Ford Focus that had slowed in front of him, said police spokesman Cpl. Rob Moroney .

The driver of the Focus — Ademola Adegun, 29, of Hyattsville — slowed apparently to continue a confrontation with the driver of a vehicle that had pulled alongside him on his left, police said, adding that they do not know who the second driver is.

A large 1989 flatbed Mack truck traveling behind Mr. Ghante also slowed but was unable to stop before hitting Mr. Ghante's pickup, police said. The truck drove Mr. Ghante's pickup into the Focus.

The driver who argued with Mr. Adegun sped away when the crash occurred, and state troopers are trying to determine his identity.

"It escalated from aggressive driving to an altercation which resulted in a collision in which an innocent person lost his life," Cpl. Moroney said.

Mr. Ghante, a civil engineer, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said that Mr. Adegun was taken to Laurel Regional Hospital for treatment of injuries, and that no charges had been filed against him last night. Mr. Adegun could not be reached, and a spokesman for the hospital said it does not release patient information.

Police received identifying information on the vehicle that fled the crash from a witness who called a dispatcher using the #77 feature on his mobile telephone.

The accident caused about a three-mile backup during the 21/2 hours that it closed two of the four southbound lanes of I-95.

The driver of the Mack truck — Jonathan Mark Leitch, 30, of Linthicum, Md. — was not injured, police said. The Mack truck, registered to United Rentals North America Corp. in Pasadena, Md., was hauling a backhoe. Mr. Leitch could not be reached, and a United Rentals spokesman didn't comment.

Possible charges against the dueling drivers range from reckless driving to felony manslaughter by automobile, police said. Penalties for those offenses range from a $1,000 fine and six points on a driver's record to a $5,000 fine and 10 years in prison, respectively.

State police are asking anyone with information about the accident to call the Waterloo Barracks at 410/799-2101. They also ask anyone who spots an aggressive driver and has a mobile telephone to dial #77 — a toll-free number at which they can relay information to police.

Meanwhile, an 8:30 a.m. accident on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway just north of Route 175 closed one of two southbound lanes on that parallel roadway for about 30 minutes. The parkway backup stretched for five miles, said Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck.

About 8,000 vehicles per hour use I-95 south and 3,000 per hour use the BW Parkway south during weekday mornings in August, said Mr. Buck.

Like many of the drivers on that highway yesterday morning, Mr. Ghante was on his way to work, police said.

He is survived by his wife, who is a homemaker, and two children, ages 5 and 12, said Lakshmi Venkataram, who is married to Mr. Ghante's cousin and was handling calls yesterday at the Ghante home on Castle Rock Court.

Mrs. Venkataram said Mr. Ghante, who held a master's degree in environmental engineering, was a friendly family man who had moved to the area in 1993 and had purchased his first house just two months ago. He always had "humongous" telephone bills from keeping in touch with friends and family across the country, she said.

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