Two people — the president of Klein's ShopRite and a 7-year-old boy — were killed in a multivehicle crash Monday morning in Harford County, Maryland State Police said.
Andrew Klein, 65, of Forest Hill, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police. Klein, who most knew as Andy, was president and CEO of Klein's ShopRite of Maryland. One of his daughters, Sarah Klein, confirmed his death.
Joppa resident Tripp Johnson, 7, was pronounced dead at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.
Klein and Johnson were not in the same vehicle, said Ron Snyder, a spokesman for the state police.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said he was in shock after hearing the news of Klein's death.
"I'm heartbroken for Andy," Glassman said. "I've known Andy for a long time through county politics. He was always a supporter."
And Harford County Public Schools is mourning the death of one of its students.
"It is with great sadness that we share the tragic passing of one of our school community. Tripp Johnson was a second-grade student at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School where students and staff who knew him will continue to celebrate his cheerful personality," the school system said in a statement.
"It is very difficult for all of us to face the death of a young person; a support team of psychologists, counselors and pupil personnel workers have joined the staff at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary school to support students and staff through this difficult time. We ask for the community's continued understanding and respect as we grieve this tragic loss."
Tripp Johnson was a happy kid, said his great-uncle, Craig Falanga.
"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 Tripp's mother, Megan Fulleylove, who was bringing Tripp to Johnson's house so Tripp's grandmother could take him to school, Falanga said.
Fulleylove, 30, of Joppa, was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. She's listed in serious condition.
Their family is a close one, he said.
"[Johnson] is doing terrible. Everybody is doing terrible," Falanga said.
At least 12 vehicles, including a ShopRite tractor-trailer, were involved in the crash around 7 a.m. at the intersection of southbound Route 24 at West Ring Factory Road, Snyder said.
The debris field from the scene stretched a quarter-mile from Ring Factory north toward Bel Air.
Traffic was backed up at the intersection when, for unknown reasons, the ShopRite truck driven by Carloo Watson, 49, of Brunswick, N.J., traveling south on Route 24, failed to stop and crashed into multiple vehicles.
The tractor-trailer caught fire, as did two vehicles pinned underneath it, state police said. Klein's vehicle was one of the two pinned, Snyder said. Tripp was in a vehicle farther back from the tractor trailer.
The tractor-trailer driver was not injured, Snyder said.
It's too early to determine if any charges will be filed, he said.
"Exactly what led to the crash is still being investigated," he said. Troopers were conducting interviews and putting together a timeline "to figure out how this tragedy occurred."
"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."
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.
Traffic was backed up on Route 24 and surrounding roads all morning. Route 24 northbound reopened around 2 p.m. and southbound traffic reopened around 4 p.m., state police said.
Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted his condolences Monday afternoon: "Sending prayers to everyone involved in this morning's devastating accident, including the families and loved ones of the two victims who lost their lives. My deepest gratitude goes to the first responders who rushed to the scene."
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 an 8-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."
The Klein family owns nine ShopRite stores — seven in Harford, one in Baltimore County and one in Baltimore City. The business started as Klein's Family Markets in 1925, according to the grocer's website, when Maurice and Sara Klein opened a general store in then-rural Fallston. Their son Ralph, his wife, Shirley, and their sons, including Andrew Klein, continued the business.
Andrew Klein was known for his philanthropy, involvement in charities and a "great" singing voice, said Jeremy Diamond, a Baltimore-based food retailing consultant and director of Diamond Marketing Group.
"It's a great loss to the business community and the grocery community and to Harford County," Diamond said. "He really put down his roots there and… provided jobs for thousands of people in his stores. He's going to be missed."
Klein's Family Markets joined New Jersey-based Wakefern, which distributes food to member stores from New Hampshire to Virginia, in 2008 and began operating under the ShopRite banner the following year.
"It's quite a shock," said Lyle Sheldon, president and CEO of Upper Chesapeake Health.
Klein was a member of the Upper Chesapeake Health board and vice chair of the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation and worked closely with Sheldon, who was with Klein at a fundraiser Sunday afternoon in Havre de Grace, he said.
"I've known Andy and his family for 31 years I've been in this county," Sheldon said. "He was a rich addition to Upper Chesapeake and a rich addition to this community."
Klein played an instrumental role in helping get the Sen. Bob Hooper House, the county's first hospice facility, and the Harford Crisis Center, a newly opened facility to treat mental health and opioid addiction issues, up and running, Sheldon said.
"He was always an open ear and a shoulder," Sheldon said. "He was a very receptive audience."
In addition to being involved in the crisis center, Klein was also very active in 4-H in the county as well as Temple Adas Shalom in Havre de Grace, Glassman said.
"They've just been big supporters of the county over the years. It started with [his parents] Shirley and Ralph [Klein] and he has carried on that tradition," Sheldon said.