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State police: 'No indication impairment played a factor' in Bel Air Route 24 crash

State police: 'No indication impairment played a factor' in Bel Air Route 24 crash
The scene of the Monday morning crash on Route 24 at Ring Factory Road near Bel Air. (Matt Button / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The 12-vehicle crash on Route 24 near Ring Factory Road in Bel Air on Monday morning remains under investigation by Maryland State Police.

A cause of the accident that killed Andrew Klein, 65, president of Klein’s Family Markets, and 7-year-old Tripp Johnson, had not been determined Tuesday.

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State police spokesman Ron Snyder said that a preliminary investigation showed “there is no indication impairment played a factor in the crash." He could not provide a time frame for when the accident investigation would be complete.

“The crash team and commercial vehicle enforcement division are assisting in the investigation,” Snyder said. “Once it is complete, it will be turned over to the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office to determine if charges will be applicable in this case.”

The accident happened around 7 a.m. on southbound Route 24 in Bel Air and involved 12 vehicles, including a ShopRite tractor-trailer that, for unknown reasons, failed to stop for traffic backed up from Ring Factory Road, according to state police.

The tractor-trailer was being driven south on Route 24 by Carloo Watson, 49, of Brunswick, N.J., according to police. Watson was not injured.

The tractor-trailer caught fire, as did two vehicles pinned underneath it, state police said. Klein, of Forest Hill, was a passenger in one of the vehicles pinned and died at the scene, Snyder said.

At Tripp’s school, William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary in Abingdon, the flag was flying at half-staff Tuesday. He was the Secret Kindness Agent last week at his school.

Each week a mystery person is chosen by the school counselor to be the secret agent, someone who plants nice notes or leaves small special gifts for students and staff at the school.

“He loved it,” said Principal Tammy O. Bosley, who became emotional talking about Tripp on Tuesday.

Tripp, of Joppa, was in a vehicle farther back from the tractor-trailer. He was in a car with his mom, Megan Fulleylove, 30, who police said was from Joppa, but who family said had recently moved to Hickory.

Fulleylove was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. She was listed in serious condition Tuesday.

The others injured include Ubaldo Juarez, 54, of Bel Air, and Sharon Sexton, 57, of Forest Hill, who were both taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview in Baltimore.

Snyder did not know their conditions Tuesday.

“Anytime there is a loss of life, it’s a tragic accident, it doesn’t matter if it’s two vehicles involved or 12,” Snyder said. “People were going to work, to school; it’s a time when more people are on the road. It’s a confluence of events coming together and we’re going to do everything we can to figure out exactly what happened.”

Tripp was a happy kid, said his great-uncle, Craig Falanga.

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“He was a good kid,” Falanga said. “But if I had to pick one word, it’s happy. He had the biggest smile you ever saw. … He was the sweetest, happiest, fun-loving little boy.”

Falanga’s great-nephew, Travis Johnson, is Tripp’s father. Johnson shares custody of Tripp with Fulleylove, who was bringing Tripp to Johnson’s house so Tripp’s grandmother could take him to school, where she’s a staff member, Falanga said.

Their family is a close one, he said. Tripp’s principal knows how close the family is.

At last year’s assembly to honor students who completed the Patriot Program, Tripp had the most fans in the audience.

Tripp Johnson, 7, of Joppa, was one of the two killed in Monday's accident.
Tripp Johnson, 7, of Joppa, was one of the two killed in Monday's accident. (Courtesy photo)

“He comes from a very large family, a very involved family, a very loving family,” Bosley said. “Tripp was always smiling, and he was a friend to all. People were just drawn to him.”

He was a model student in the classroom; he always participated and worked well with other students, she said.

“He always did,” Bosley said. “He had a lot of friends and every staff member in the building knew Tripp.”

The entire school was remembering Tripp on Tuesday. Students in pre-K through second grade were drawing their fondest memories of their friend, while students in third, fourth and fifth grades were talking about him, and how to deal with loss and how to best remember loved ones, Bosley said.

Wakefern Food Corp., the cooperative food distributor of which ShopRite is a member, issued a statement Monday: “We are shocked and saddened to learn about the tragic accident that took place in Maryland today and claimed two precious lives, including [a 7-year-old] boy and our own beloved ShopRite family member Andrew Klein, president of Klein’s Family Markets. Our hearts grieve with both families …

“On behalf of the Klein family, we ask that the media and those seeking to express their condolences respect the family’s privacy at this time. We are cooperating fully with the police, and because this is an active accident investigation, we cannot provide further comment.”

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