By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun
7:34 PM EDT, August 28, 2013
Anne Arundel County police said they were still investigating the multi-car collision during afternoon rush hour Tuesday that killed three people — including two children — and injured six others.
Police said "driver error" was likely a factor in the crash, which took place on Route 3 south near Route 32 when a truck slammed into a Toyota Camry, causing a chain reaction crash that police said ultimately involved eight vehicles.
Those killed were all from Warsaw, Va., and riding in the back seat of the Toyota, according to police accounts.
Bethany Dawn Dempsey, 37; her 14-year-old daughter, Lauren White; and Abigail Randi Cullen, the 7-year-old daughter of driver Michael Thomas Cullen II, died in the crash.
Cullen, 37, Dempsey's boyfriend, was in critical condition at Maryland Shock Trauma on Wednesday evening. His 15-year-old son, also named Michael, was in fair condition.
Police said the truck, a flatbed commercial delivery truck, was driven by Jason Nathaniel Pagayoya, 36, of Waldorf.
Route 3 was closed for hours as rescue personnel, police and investigators worked at the site. Lt. Glenn Shanahan, an Anne Arundel County police spokesman, described the scene as "horrific."
"It was one of the worst I'd ever seen — not just the wreckage, but with the loss of life," Shanahan said Wednesday. "Three members of the same family in the same car, it's just horrible."
The King George County sheriff's office in Virginia confirmed that Bethany Dempsey and Lauren White are the daughter and granddaughter of Sheriff Stephen Dempsey, but the sheriff had no comment on the incident Wednesday, according to an employee who declined to give her name.
A prayer vigil was scheduled Wednesday evening at Rappahannock Church of Christ in Warsaw, where Michael Cullen and Bethany Dempsey were members, according to associate minister Jim Ward.
"It's been devastating," Ward said. He said Cullen's daughter Abigail and son Michael were both involved in youth sports and other activities in the "close-knit" community.
He described Dempsey and Cullen as "a big part of our church family," and said the church's senior minister had gone to Baltimore to be with the family.
In all, eight vehicles and 14 people were involved in the incident. Police said they believe Pagayoya was going about 50 mph — within the posted limit — but failed to slow down with other traffic as they approached a backup at a traffic signal at Route 175.
Police said alcohol and drugs did not appear to be a factor. Investigators were consulting with the state's attorney's office as the investigation continued.
All of the Toyota's passengers were wearing seat belts, police said, but the impact was so severe it didn't matter.
The Toyota was pushed into other cars, causing a domino effect. Five people suffered minor injuries and were treated at an area hospital and released.
They included a couple in their 60s, James and Denise Cox of Waldorf, along with three people driving separate vehicles: Dana T. Cartwright, 34, of Bowie; Abiola O. Isola, 19, of Bowie; and April L. Avila, 36, of Glen Burnie.
Three people were unhurt: Bernard M. Taylor, 59, of Mitchellville; Patricia J. Covington, 71, of Bowie; and Casey L. Steele, 24, of North Beach.
Sun reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.
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