Funkstown man in serious condition following I-81 crash

Police said emergency repairs to a pothole on the I-81 bridge over the Potomac River played a role

May 31, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |

A Funkstown man was in serious condition Tuesday at R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma in Baltimore following an accident on Interstate 81.

Emergency repairs to a pothole on the I-81 bridge over the Potomac River apparently played a role in the afternoon crash at the Cearfoss Pike exit, Maryland State Police said in a news release.

Emergency rescue crews responded to the crash at about 4:20 p.m. at the Cearfoss Pike and I-81 interchange that closed both southbound lanes.

Police said the wreck involved a 2002 Kia Rio that struck the rear of a Volvo tractor-trailer, driven by David Kithart, 55, of Bell, Texas.

The tractor-trailer was stopped in the slow lane due to heavy traffic, police said. Traffic was also stopped in the fast lane.

A preliminary investigation indicated that emergency repairs to the pothole on the Potomac River bridge helped create the heavy traffic on I-81, police said.

The Maryland State Highway Administration had closed one of the southbound lanes at the bridge to repair a growing pothole on the bridge.

Police said the driver of the Kia, Thomas Lewis McDonald Jr., 45, of Funkstown, apparently failed to notice that traffic had stopped and ran into the rear of the tractor-trailer.

McDonald, who was wearing his seatbelt at the time, was trapped in his vehicle. It took rescue crews from Maugansville and Halfway about 30 minutes to free him from the car, police said.

McDonald sustained life-threatening injuries and was airlifted to the shock-trauma center by a state police helicopter, police said. He was listed in serious but stable condition Tuesday night, a hospital spokesman said.

After about 90 minutes, both southbound lanes of I-81 were reopened, and backed-up rush-hour traffic begin to flow at about 5:30 p.m.

A Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman said the repairs were completed by early Tuesday evening.

The southbound right-hand lane was closed so crews could cut out a 2-foot by 4-foot portion of the bridge deck and pour new concrete, SHA spokesman David Buck said.

The concrete needed to set before the lane could be reopened. Portable message signs were set up to warn drivers two and five miles before the bridge, Buck said.

The pothole was discovered Thursday, and repairs were made Thursday and Saturday to get through the holiday weekend, Buck said. Another temporary repair was made Tuesday morning, but the pothole required a permanent repair, he said.

Staff writers Julie E. Greene and Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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