Man dies in wrong-way vehicle head-on crash on I-81 at U.S. 40 ramp

Van had earlier been pursued by police following shoplifting report

February 14, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • Emergency personnel attend to a person injured in a head-on crash Thursday afternoon on Interstate 81 at the U.S. 40 interchange.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

A man died Thursday after he allegedly shoplifted merchandise from the Sears store in the Valley Mall and led authorities on a pursuit that ended when the man went the wrong way up an Interstate 81 on ramp and struck a Volkswagen, said Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said.

David Christopher Adams, 58, was taken to Meritus Medical Center after the crash where doctors tried to revive him, Mullendore said.

The driver of the 2012 Volkswagen Touareg, Richard B. McGrath, 61, of Smithsburg, had less severe injuries, Mullendore said.

The string of events started about 12:20 p.m. when Washington County 911 received a call about a theft of merchandise at Sears, according to the sheriff’s department.

Sheriff’s deputies said the nature of the call was similar to an individual who was in the Sears stealing items Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, police said.

Deputies arrived at Sears and the man, who had stolen clothing, dropped the items in the parking lot, Mullendore said.


Adams, whose last known address was 233 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, left Sears driving a 2002 Honda Odyssey van that had been reported stolen several days ago from Halfway Motors on Wilson Boulevard, Mullendore said.

Adams drove south on I-81, turned around in the area of the Williamsport exit and began traveling north on the interstate, Mullendore said. Adams exited the interstate at the Halfway Boulevard exit and drove the wrong way on Halfway Boulevard before resuming north on I-81, Mullendore said.

“There’s all sorts of turns he did. He came through the median once or twice,” Mullendore said.

At one point while driving north on I-81, Adams drove onto an emergency vehicle crossover on the interstate north of the Halfway Boulevard exit and crossed the highway, Mullendore said. Adams then started driving north on I-81 on the southbound shoulder, Mullendore said.

Adams entered the I-81 southbound ramp from U.S. 40 eastbound the wrong way and collided with the Volkswagen.

Police did not pursue Adams when he was traveling the wrong directions on roads, Mullendore said. When Adams was traveling north on I-81 on the southbound shoulder, police were monitoring him by traveling in the northbound lanes on the interstate, Mullendore said.

The sheriff’s department was joined by Maryland State Police in the pursuit. Hagerstown Police Department officers were about to join the chase when the crash occurred, Mullendore said.

Washington County District Court records said Adams pleaded guilty in April 2012 to theft of a vehicle and was sentenced to one year in jail. He was incarcerated in the county detention center from Jan. 10, 2012, — the date of the offense — until Nov. 6, 2012, a deputy at the detention center said.

In the thefts from Sears on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, clothing such as leather jackets and shoes were stolen, Mullendore said.

Staff writer Don Aines contributed to this story.

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