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Freak storm causes fatal crash on I-70

March 30, 1997

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

Two women, including one on her way to visit family for the Easter holiday, were killed in separate accidents Saturday, Maryland State Police said.

The noontime storm that hit the area played a role in the crash that killed Roberta Lee Gracie, 36, of Baltimore.

She had pulled off westbound Interstate 70 during the storm and was involved in a fender-bender on the road's shoulder.

Gracie was crushed between her van and another car after she got out to exchange insurance information, police said.

Earlier Saturday, 36-year-old Eugenia Teressa Spencer, of Jefferson, Md., died when her pickup truck ran off Md. 85 in Frederick County and hit a utility pole, police said. That crash happened at 9:22 a.m., police said.

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Gracie was on her way to an Easter family gathering, said Trooper Wayne Smith.

Her 10-year-old daughter, whom Smith did not name, had remained inside the van. She was not hurt.

The accident happened after a brief but wicked storm pelted Washington and Frederick counties with dime-sized hail.

Gracie and other drivers had pulled off I-70, on the Hagerstown side of South Mountain, until the worst of the storm had passed, Smith said.

In the confusion, Gracie's van was hit by a station wagon driven by Barbara Crum Barnette, 41, of Jefferson, Md., police said.

Gracie had left her van to share insurance information with Barnette when she was killed.

After Randolph James Finder, 28, of Arlington, Va., hit his brakes, his car skidded on the rain-soaked highway and hit the back of the van, police said.

Finder's car then ricocheted off the van and into the slow lane, where it was struck by a another car, police said.

Gracie was pronounced dead at Washington County Hospital, police said.

In the Frederick County accident, Spencer was northbound on Md. 85 near Greenfield Road when her truck ran off the right side of the road and hit a utility pole, police said.

Power lines were down in the area and the road was closed for several hours, police said.

Spencer was not wearing her seat belt, police said.

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