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N.Y. man killed in I-81 wreck

March 09, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A New York man died and his sister-in-law was taken to Washington County Hospital after the car in which they were riding struck a tree in the median of Interstate 81 north of Hagerstown Monday afternoon, Maryland State Police said.

Trooper Rob Embly Jr. said police were called at 1:26 p.m. to the accident in the grassy median on I-81 south of Showalter Road.

Embly said the driver, later identified by Trooper John Crawford as Eileen Weber, was heading south when she lost control of the car and drove onto the median on the left-hand side of the roadway. The car narrowly missed two trees by driving between them, but struck a third tree head-on, police said.

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Embly said a witness who also was driving south on I-81 said it appeared the driver fell asleep.

The passenger in the 2000 Chrysler, Paschal J. Zambito, 78, of 118 Glen Ave. in Williamsville, N.Y., died at the scene, according to a news release prepared by Crawford.

Crawford said Monday evening that Weber, 76, of 57 N. Union Road in Williamsville, was taken to Washington County Hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries.

He said the investigation was ongoing.

A hospital spokeswoman said Weber was being treated in the emergency room Monday evening, but did not have a condition available.

Most of the front end of the green, late-model Chrysler 300 was sheered off, and the cabin of the car was exposed to the air. The car, which had New York license plates, came to rest in a small grove of trees.

Joe Kozmon, 47, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said he was driving north on I-81 and pulled over into the median strip after seeing a cloud of dust related to the accident.

"I checked him (the passenger) out and he was gone," said Kozmon, who said he works with the Berkeley County fire police.

Only inches from where the car came to rest, a wooden cross had been placed in the median strip. Fire and police officials said that was the site of a fatal accident last year in which a 19-year-old woman died when the vehicle she was in struck a tree.

Maryland State Highway Administration traffic engineer Linda Zerbee was at the accident scene. She said SHA officials document fatal accidents on highways to look for possible road-improvement needs, but said she did not see anything immediately apparent.

Embly said the accident appeared to be caused by driver error. He said the witness who saw the accident said there was no one else involved in the accident, and the roadway is fairly straight.

"Anytime anybody dies in an accident, it's not a good thing," Embly said. "The majority of the responsibility is on the motoring public. ... We just beg people to slow down and obey the speed limit."

Staff Writer Brian Shappell contributed to this story.

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