- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

The death toll from Monday's tornado has reached three: two sisters who attended the University of Maryland and a 78-year-old firefighter who suffered an apparent heart attack after his shift.
Colleen Marlatt, 23, and her sister Erin, 20, both of Clarksville, Md., died when winds in excess of 200 mph picked up their car and carried it several hundred yards near high-rise dormitory buildings. The vehicle ended up in an area of trees.
Firefighter Clarence Kreitzer, who operated large lights at the scene, returned to the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department afterward, watched some football and died during the drive home.
Yesterday, the Marlatts' friends and family expressed their sorrow.
"Devastating is a real good adjective," said family friend Woodrow Clookie. "You have to believe that having this happen to one [sister] is incredibly horrible, but to two?"
Colleen Patricia Marlatt, a senior, was scheduled to graduate in December with a bachelor of arts degree in communication and a bachelor of science in environmental science and policy.
Last year, she received the James I. Brown Research Award from the Institute for the Study of Intrapersonal Processes for her study on music therapy and senility.
Erin Patricia Marlatt was a sophomore sociology major. She was recovering from neurosurgery in January for a benign tumor.
Between tears, their mother described the two as "just the most wonderful, talented, beautiful girls. Religious girls. Great friends, great daughters, true ladies everything a mother could want," Paula Marlatt told the Associated Press.
Both attended Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, Md., and loved visiting Ocean City in the summertime.
"These were two wonderful girls who cared very deeply about each other and were great friends," said Dr. Clifford Turen, who was chosen to speak on behalf of the family.
On Monday afternoon, the sisters stopped in to see their father at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, headquartered on the university campus.
F. Patrick Marlatt, chief of Howard County's 5th District Volunteer Fire Department and assistant director at the institute, walked his daughters outside after the visit and told them they should "probably head home," Dr. Turen said.
"He walked back into his office and boom, it hit," Dr. Turen said.
The tornado tore through the institute's offices, burying Chief Marlatt under rubble for 45 minutes before he was pulled out.
He is recovering at home now, with two black eyes and 20 to 40 stitches.
The Marlatt sisters were in their car near Easton Hall about 5:30 p.m. when the tornado hit. A county fire department spokesman said the winds tossed the car the length of two or three football fields.
The university has set up a University of Maryland Tornado Victims Fund to help those "suffering the greatest harm and who are most in need," according to the school Web site.
A prayer vigil for area tornado victims will be held tonight at the New Life Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Gaithersburg.
"I can't imagine the grief that the family must be going through," said Prince George's County Council member M.H. "Jim" Estepp, a friend of Chief Marlatt and former fire chief himself. He said his own daughter escaped harm at the campus.
Meanwhile, members of the firefighter community yesterday mourned the loss of one of their oldest colleagues.
"He will be missed," said firefighter Dan Clark, 52, referring to Mr. Kreitzer, the 64-year volunteer known as "Cuz" around the firehouse.
Mr. Kreitzer served as a Hyattsville police officer and a Maryland-National Capital Park Police officer.
He joined the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department in 1937 and has held the offices of trustee, vice president, engineer, lieutenant and rescue squad chief.
In his retirement, Mr. Kreitzer continued to volunteer at Station 19.
He joined other elder volunteers for a "coffee club" every Saturday and Sunday morning. The group would assemble at the station, sip coffee, and, if needed, jump on a truck.
"I think it's just like with me. All of his relatives were in," said firefighter Dan Clark, 52, explaining Mr. Kreitzer's commitment to the job. "I think it just runs in the blood."
Mr. Clark's brother George, 59, also a firefighter, said Mr. Kreitzer first joined the department because Bowie at that time was a small town, and there was nothing else to do.
"The fire department was like a club," George Clark said.
Mr. Kreitzer loved to bowl and boast about his grandchildren. For the past 25 years, he cooked hot dogs on behalf of the fire department at Bowie's annual spring and fall festivals.
"For a guy 78 years old to still be involved, it's a tribute to his dedication," said Mr. Estepp, also a Kreitzer family friend.
On Monday night, after working at the campus, Mr. Kreitzer returned to the station and watched the Redskins game on "Monday Night Football." He called his daughter to let her know he was coming home.
"He said, 'I've been up since 4 [in the morning]. I'm tired,'" Dan Clark recalled.
About 11 p.m., Mr. Kreitzer lost control of his car and struck a curb.
He is survived by a daughter, Kim, from Crofton and three grandchildren.

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