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Crash injures three, snarls traffic on I-70

October 02, 1998

SUV and railBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




A Thursday afternoon traffic accident involving a tanker hauling 8,000 gallons of gasoline and a highway painting team truck closed the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 in Washington County for more than eight hours and backed up traffic for miles, officials said.

Three people were injured when the AC&T tanker plowed into a sport utility vehicle and a Maryland Department of Transportation truck on I-70 near Whitehall Road at 12:55 p.m., according to Maryland State Police Trooper Wayne Smith.

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The state highway department truck, driven by Robert Emala, 63, of Baltimore, carried a large lighted arrow directing motorists to move into the left lane.

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The truck, which was traveling about 25 miles per hour, brought up the rear of a convoy of trucks painting lines on I-70, Smith said.

Joseph Dieter, 23, of 337 Radcliffe Ave., Hagerstown, who was driving a 1987 Suzuki Samurai in the right lane, was unable to merge into the left, police said.

"He realized the truck was slow moving and was waiting for clearance," said Smith.

SUV and signal truckDieter's sport utility vehicle was struck from behind by the AC&T tanker driven by Robert A. Shaw, of Warfordsburg, Pa., and was pushed into the highway department truck, police said

The impact crushed the Suzuki between the state truck and the guardrail.

The tanker swerved to the right, broke through the guardrail and rolled down a 50-foot embankment that led to a cornfield, police said.

"He didn't have a chance to brake. He misjudged how slow moving the truck was," said Smith of Shaw.

Smith said he was not aware if any of the gasoline spilled from the tanker.

He said the driver of the state truck saw the accident unfold through his side mirror and attempted to swerve to the shoulder but was too late.

The westbound lanes between the U.S. 40 and Md. 66 exits were closed as crews siphoned the fuel into another tanker that was parked in the cornfield.

The tanker was drained before rescue crews using a crane lifted it from the embankment down to the bottom of the hill. The Ford truck and Suzuki were towed from the scene.

Gas TankerAll three drivers were taken to Washington County Hospital.

Shaw and Emala were treated and released.

Dieter was listed in fair condition Thursday evening.

Smith said he spoke with Dieter at the hospital following the accident and said he was alert.

Traffic was detoured around the accident scene between Md. 66 and U.S. 40, but police said traffic was backed up to Myersville in Frederick County.

Responding to the scene in addition to Maryland State Police were: the Maryland Department of the Environment Spill Response Team, Mount Aetna, Funkstown, Halfway, Smithsburg, Washington County Airport and Boonsboro fire departments.

-Staff writer Guy Fletcher contributed to this story.

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