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Woman warns Md. 77 drivers to slow down

July 29, 1999

By BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




Tammy WhisnerSMITHSBURG - The sight of fresh flowers placed on a dented guardrail in memory of a motorcyclist who died there seems to slow down passing motorists, Tammy Whisner says.

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Whisner lives beside the crash site on a steep, twisting section of Md. 77, also known as Foxville Road, east of Smithsburg. Her driveway slopes down from a sharp elbow bend that has seen its share of mangled metal.

So has Whisner, for whom crashes are too familiar. After eight years of seeing the aftermath of accidents, the sound of a crash fills her with dread.

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"To hear that and know what you're going to see..." she said, her voice trailing off.

Rt. 77 MemorialThe most recent accident, on Sunday, claimed the life of Kevin Ruchirek, 24, of Rockville, Md.

Police said his 1996 Suzuki Katana slid off the road and hit a guardrail.

Whisner was watching television and about to leave for work at Safeway when a group of motorcycles went by just after 1 p.m. She heard the impact, saw the aftermath and called for help. It was no use.

Ruchirek's family and friends returned Monday to place garlands on the guardrail and bouquets on the ground beside a helmet. A couple later left a candle that still burned Wednesday.

"I know from experience it's a bad road," said Wayne Smith, president of the Smithsburg Rescue Co. and a resident for more than 30 years. "There's always a lot of accidents up there."

Jim Mace of Mace Auto Body, said the road is no worse than others around Smithsburg. "I wouldn't say there are more accidents on that stretch than on (routes) 64 or 66," he said.

In 1997, there were 15 traffic accidents on Foxville Road between Smithsburg and the Frederick County line, according to Washington County Fire and Rescue dispatcher Roy Lescalleet. There were 13 in 1998 and four so far this year.

Despite a 35 mph speed limit and several caution signs, drivers often speed, according to Whisner.

"What I'm trying to get across to people is, slow down," she said.

The first accident came within a week after she moved into the house in January 1991.

Later, her husband Kevin's truck was struck head-on while he was going into their driveway. Two years ago, a Ford Bronco landed in her front yard, less than 20 feet from her son's bedroom.

"We've had several out in front of our place, too," said Joan Baliff, a neighbor. "We hear an awful lot of screeching tires. It's a very dangerous road."

The State Highway Administration is installing two sets of caution signals on the road. The signals, which were under construction before the July 25 accident, will be activated before September, George Small, assistant district engineer-traffic, said.

"There's already plenty of warning out there, but we thought a flashing yellow light would help emphasize it," Small said.

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