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Accident victims identified

March 25, 1998

Accident victims identified

Police on Tuesday identified the occupants of a car that ran off Interstate 70 and crashed near railroad tracks off Hopewell Road on Monday.

The driver, who died in the 5 a.m. accident, was identified as Steven Alan Loeper, 23, who was in the U.S. Navy stationed aboard the USS Mahan in Norfolk, Va., according to Maryland State Police.

The passenger, Melissa Sue Schoonover, 19, of Coast Haven, Newport, N.C., was listed in critical condition Tuesday night at University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

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She was transferred from the recovery room at the hospital at about 4 p.m. Tuesday, state police said.

Their identities had been withheld until family members could be notified, police said.

The two were thrown from a 1989 Pontiac Sunbird with Florida plates after it left an eastbound lane of Interstate 70, struck a guardrail and went down an embankment, crashing near CSX railroad tracks, police said.

Neither was wearing a seat belt, police said.

Police said Loeper may have fallen asleep at the wheel. Schoonover told rescuers she had been asleep at the time of the crash.

The accident was discovered at 6:30 a.m. by Raymond Moats, 36, of Hagerstown, who was walking along the railroad tracks near Lakeside Trailer Park.

Moats flagged down an oncoming train and the train's engineer called Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications.

The car couldn't be seen from the interstate.

Earlier Monday, state police had received a call about a car going off the road, but the directions were faulty and no car was found during a 5 a.m. search, police said.

It was the fourth fatal traffic accident in Washington County this year, police said.

- Lisa Graybeal

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