Maryland State Police are looking for the driver of a vehicle involved in an apparent hit-and-run accident early Thursday in Arnold that killed a contract highway worker who was apparently working alone and without notifying authorities, both violations of state guidelines.
Police said Ghassen A. "Gus" Sabra, 52, of Goldsboro, N.C., was run over by a tractor-trailer about 1 a.m. in the right eastbound lane of U.S. 50 at Bay Dale Drive. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The tractor-trailer, driven by Ricky Beasley, 51, of Mount Olive, N.C., was not the first vehicle to hit Sabra, police said.
The preliminary police investigation indicates that Sabra had been working in the left lane of eastbound U.S. 50, either deploying or retrieving traffic-counting equipment, when he was struck by a vehicle and thrown into the right lane. Beasley did not see Sabra's body until it was too late to stop, police said.
Investigators had no description of the vehicle that initially struck Sabra.
Sabra, who was wearing reflective clothing at the time of the accident, worked for Sabra, Wang & Associates Inc. of Halethorpe, according to police. State and company officials said he was the brother of the owner, Ziad Sabra.
Valerie Burnette Edgar, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, described Sabra, Wang as a small company that has worked for the agency for years.
Edgar said the lane in which the victim was hit was not closed at the time of the incident. She said it was not the kind of work zone that is marked by large orange barrels. While the agency would count the death as a work zone fatality, she said, "This wouldn't be a work zone from the perspective of the driver."
The spokeswoman said the SHA has guidelines and protocols in effect for such work and that contractors receive training on safety procedures. Edgar said Ziad Sabra had received training and that companies awarded state highway contracts are routinely given copies of the rules.
State guidelines governing such work provide that "a spotter shall be used to assist other team member(s) installing the counter to warn of possible impending problems." But Edgar said no spotter was found at the scene.
"After authorities arrived, the body was there alone," she said.
Another rule requires that the agency's Highway Information Services Division be notified in advance before consultants and subcontractors perform traffic count work. Edgar said the division had not been informed of the planned work.
"In this case, they're definitely supposed to," she said. "It can happen that [contractors] go out and do something without notifying us."
Another rule specifies that for work such as Sabra was performing on U.S. 50, the shoulder should be marked off with a tapered line of orange cones blocking off the crew's vehicle, along with a sign warning of shoulder work. Edgar said the victim did have a truck but that there appears to have been no cones or sign at the site.
She said the effectiveness of the guidelines and whether they were being followed would be the subject of an investigation apart from the criminal probe.
"The way it's been reported now, it does raise a lot of concerns," Edgar said. "Everything at this point is preliminary."
Edgar added that she has no reason to believe SHA's rules for traffic count work are routinely broken.
Paul Silberman, a senior associate for Sabra, Wang, said the company would have no comment on its procedures because the matter is under investigation.
Shortly after the fatality, the company posted a message on its website that said in part: "Gus was a loyal, hard working man who enjoyed his work and the colleagues and clients he worked with. Gus is survived by his wife and three children. We offer our deepest condolences to the Sabra Family during this very difficult time."
Police asked anyone with information in the case to call the Glen Burnie barracks at 410-761-5130.