- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

The fiery, multivehicle crash early yesterday on Route 301 in Brandywine that killed three persons and shut down the morning commute started when a taxi driver going north swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid a broken-down car in the fast lane, according to a preliminary investigation.

State police said the taxi went into the southbound lanes at about 5 a.m. and collided with an oncoming dump truck that careered across the median, then hit a GMC box truck and two more cars.

The accident, north of Cedarville Road, blocked Route 301 for about seven hours and backed up traffic for miles between Charles and Prince George’s counties.

The driver of the broken-down vehicle had left to get help when the accident occurred but had turned on the vehicle’s emergency lights, said Cpl. Rob Moroney, a state police spokesman.

He also said the taxi “caused the dump truck [driver] to lose control, veer to the left and into the northbound lanes.”

The dump truck then collided head-on with the GMC box truck, used for catering lunches. The box truck was struck in the rear by a 1986 Chevrolet driven by James Alfred Long Sr., of Hughsville.

The dump truck continued on and collided head-on with a 1989 Buick.

The vehicles were engulfed in fire, and the drivers of the dump truck, the Buick and the lunch wagon were trapped inside their vehicles and perished. They had not been identified by police as of early last night.

Witnesses and drivers who avoided the wreck tried to help, but were forced back when the dump truck burst into flames. One man said the flames were as high as the trees, and that the heat was just too intense to get near enough to help.

“It sounded like somebody was coming through the garage,” said Brian Saar, whose home on Crain Highway, a stretch of Route 301, is in front of the accident scene.

“I thought somebody was breaking in,” said Mr. Saar, 26. “Then I thought somebody was crashing up through the driveway. Then I came out here and everything was burning.”

Karen Reynolds, Mr. Saar’s girlfriend, said the crash “sounded like a big explosion, like something was driving right into our house. It was a big crash, and then we looked out the window and everything was on fire. … It was flames everywhere. It was really high. It burnt our tree, and our tree is 40 or 50 feet tall.”

Mr. Saar said the driver of the GMC truck was “screaming in pain” and that the dump truck driver was leaning out the window as witnesses told him to jump.

“But I guess he was pinned in there,” he said. “It’s messed up it had to happen like that.”

The driver of the cab was identified as Margaret Bella Eyombo, 53, of Waldorf.

She and Mr. Long, the driver of the Chevrolet, has serious but non-life-threatening injuries and were taken by helicopter to a hospital, according to state police.

The wreckage was cleared at about noon, when Route 301 was reopened.

No charges had been filed as of last night.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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