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2 die in strange, tragic day on Bay Bridge

Three people plucked from water, one after a crash

By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

8:44 PM EDT, April 18, 2011

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On a strange, tragic day at the Bay Bridge, three people were pulled from the waters under the twin spans, one of whom was killed after being thrown into the bay when a truck ran into his car, and another who died in what might have been a suicide.

Another person plucked from the bay within a six-hour period was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries, having survived a 180-foot fall from the westbound span. Police would not comment on whether two of the incidents were suicides but said the victims' vehicles were found abandoned on the bridge in both cases.

The first accident forced police to close the eastbound span for several hours, leading to a huge traffic backup.

It was apparently only the second time in the nearly 60-year history of the Bay Bridge that a person has gone over the side as the result of a crash. In August 2008, the driver of a tractor-trailer died when his truck crashed through the barrier wall on the eastbound span and plunged into the water below.

Sgt. Jonathan Green, a spokesmen for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said the accident occurred about 10:25 a.m., roughly halfway between the water's edge on the Anne Arundel County side and the large curve well-known to users of the bridge.

Green said a 2001 Honda Accord broke down in the right-hand lane, the only one open at the time, and its driver left the vehicle. A 2003 International truck, which was not pulling a trailer, struck the rear of the Honda and forced it into the car's driver, pushing him over the concrete barrier wall and into the water. Green said the bridge deck is 521/2 feet above the water at that point.

Green said the 70-year-old victim was pulled from the water by officers on a transportation police marine boat that was in the area and taken to a dock near Sandy Point. From there, the Anne Arundel County Fire Department took him to Anne Arundel Medical Center, where Green said he was pronounced dead.

The spokesman said police have identified the victim but were not releasing his name pending notification of his family.

Green said the truck's driver, a 63-year-old man, refused treatment at the scene. He also said a witness to the crash, a 54-year-old woman who was not in either vehicle, was treated for a medical emergency.

Green said the second incident occurred about 12:30 p.m. when a 2008 Toyota sedan was reported unattended in the right lane of the westbound span, which was in two-way operations at the time with the middle lane being used as a buffer. Traffic backed up for about a half-hour.

An adult male was recovered from the water below, Green said.

According to the spokesman, the Anne Arundel Fire Department provided initial treatment before the man was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore with "life-threatening injuries." The man, who was not identified, was still undergoing treatment Monday night. Green said the car was found near the high point of the westbound bridge, about 180 feet above the water.

Another unattended vehicle was found six-tenths of a mile from that point on the westbound span — also near the high point of the bridge — at 3:39 p.m. Green said the apparent driver, a man, was pulled from the water and was later pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Police did not release the identities of either of the men who left their vehicles on the bridge.

Kelly Melhem, a spokeswoman for the transportation authority, said the agency would not comment on the reasons the men ended up in the water. She said the authority has a policy against commenting on suicide attempts out of a concern that the "contagion" could lead to other incidents.

Green said the transportation police department's accident reconstruction team is investigating the crash that pushed the man off the bridge. He said any decision about whether to bring charges would be made by the Anne Arundel County state's attorney.

The eastbound span was reopened at 1:49 p.m. The westbound span continued in two-way operations until the eastbound backup cleared and then was restored to normal operations, Melhem said.

Melhem said the authority advises motorists whose vehicles become disabled on the Bay Bridge to remain in their vehicles until emergency assistance arrives.

The two fatalities made Monday the deadiest day on the Bay Bridge since May 10, 2007, when three Eastern Shore men were killed in a crash after a trailer on a SUV came loose on the westbound span, causing a seven-vehicle chain-reaction crash.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com