Sunday, October 17, 2004

WHITE MARSH, Md. — Dozens of vehicles crashed in separate accidents on Interstate 95 yesterday as a storm blew through a Baltimore suburb, injuring at least 49 persons and forcing authorities to shut down the highway.

No fatalities were reported at the scene.

Susan Whickers, of Baltimore, said she knew she was in trouble when drivers in all four lanes “slammed on their brakes” just before 5 p.m.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh, God,’ because the car in front of us went right under a tractor trailer,” Miss Whickers said.

Cindy James, of Woodbridge, Va., said the road wasn’t slippery but that the glare was unusually strong from sleet on the road, even while wearing sunglasses.

“Everybody stopped because of the glare and the sleet,” said her 15-year-old daughter, Veronica.

Cpl. Rob Moroney said at least four large accidents occurred in a 5-mile stretch of the highway. Ambulances and helicopters rushed the injured from the scene.

Leslie Baker, an emergency medical technician with the Joppa Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company responded to one of the initial accidents that involved several vehicles, including a bus that had 30 passengers aboard. In that accident, Miss Baker said, 22 persons needed medical attention.

While she was helping, she saw other accidents happen, one involving a tractor-trailer running over another vehicle.

A total of 49 persons were taken to hospitals from those four accidents, Miss Baker said.

Five persons treated at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma were in serious condition, a spokeswoman said.

Ten persons were sent to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, another hospital spokeswoman said.

There also were numerous minor injuries, the state police said, and the total number of people taken to hospitals was not immediately available.

A witness told WBAL-TV that he saw at least 90 crashed vehicles. The station aired footage showing smashed vehicles littering the road and the median.

The accidents started about 4:30 p.m., when the sky darkened and hail and rain started falling.

The north and south lanes of I-95 in the area were closed after the accident, but authorities opened the northbound shoulder for traffic in the early evening.

The accidents left some motorists stranded on the interstate, because their vehicles had been too damaged to drive. Authorities worked to take people off the interstate by bus.

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