- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

Three fatal accidents in a little more than 24 hours, all involving young drivers in rural areas of Montgomery County, left veteran police officers and emergency medical technicians shaken by what many consider to be “a parent’s worst nightmare.”

Members of the Collision Reconstruction Unit worked overtime Saturday and yesterday trying to determine why vehicles driven by three youngsters left rural roads and collided with trees or utility poles, leaving five persons dead.

Four other teens remained hospitalized Sunday night with serious injuries.

“Parents must remember that it’s not just how their children drive; it is who they’re in the car with,” said Capt. John Fitzgerald of the Montgomery County Police Department.

Just before 11:30 p.m. on Friday, a Volkswagen driven by a 16-year-old left Norwood Road near the Howard County line and struck a telephone pole. The driver suffered serious injuries, and his passenger, Alicia Betancourt, 16, died at the scene. Both are enrolled at James H. Blake High School.

At about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday near Burtonsville, a car struck a utility pole on McKnew Road, killing driver Robert Joseph Middaugh and front-seat passenger Michelle Timchalk, both 17, of Laurel. A 17-year-old girl sitting in the back seat suffered serious injuries and was taken to the University of Maryland Medicine R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Police said excessive speed was a factor in the crash, and they are investigating whether alcohol also played a part.

About one hour later, police responding to a report of possible drag racing on a rural road north of Seneca Creek State Park detained two motorists as several other vehicles sped away. Other officers who were approaching heard the impact of a car hitting a tree.

“While the dust was still in the air from the collision, our officer saw a car fairly deep into the woods that had obviously lost control,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

The crash killed Edward Steve Monterroza, 19, of Damascus, and Elmer Alfredo Martinez, 18, of Wheaton. Two injured male passengers were taken to area hospitals.

Police said speed also was a factor in this crash.

In each case, members of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Department had to cut mangled bodies from the wreckage, stabilize the injured and concede that some victims could not be saved.

Officials from the Montgomery County Public Schools were trying to determine whether grief counselors and other support services might be needed at some schools today, said Brian Porter, chief of staff to Superintendent Jerry Weast.

“We have to wait for police to notify the families, and then we’ll check our rosters,” Mr. Porter said.

“It’s something you try to explain to your teenagers,” said Jade Boesen of Columbia, who brought her daughter, Tara Butler, 17, to the Burtonsville scene at McKnew and Sandy Springs roads intersection.

“At that age, they think they are invincible,” Mrs. Boesen said. “This could be themselves.”

Arlo Wagner contributed to this report.

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