Mary Ann McCruden was on her way to midnight Mass and a Baltimore County police officer was rushing to a fire late on Christmas Eve when their cars collided in Fullerton.
An air bag helped save the life of the officer. The mother of two, who had just left a holiday party, died.
"It's Christmas," said her husband, John McCruden. "It'll never be the same."
Mrs. McCruden, 47, of Perry Hall, had just left the party where she had been celebrating with her family, said Mr. McCruden, a fire department paramedic stationed at Brooklandville. She was turning west across southbound Belair Road into the St. Joseph's Church parking lot when her car collided with the police car, 10 minutes before Mass was to start. The accident occurred on a steep hill.
The cruiser's lights were flashing, but police are not sure whether the sirens were blaring, said E. Jay Miller, police spokesman. Officer Herbert Park could not brake in time to avoid colliding with Mrs. McCruden, he said.
"Ironically, the fire itself was not a serious fire," said Mr. Miller. "None of the units, fire or police, that respond ever know that. The call came in as a dwelling fire."
Mrs. McCruden's 1988 Ford Escort spun and skidded down an embankment, knocking her unconscious. She died three hours later on the operating table at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Police said both drivers had green lights. The investigation is continuing.
Ironically, Mrs. McCruden's sister, fire dispatcher Claire Keogh, learned of the accident when paramedics called and asked if she knew the victim's identity. She left immediately for the hospital, Mr. McCruden, said, and "got another fire dispatcher to call me and the family so she wouldn't have to tell me about it."
Officer Park, a six-year veteran, was treated for back and neck injuries at Franklin Square Hospital and released. Police said an air bag saved him from severe injuries.
Mr. McCruden said that as a paramedic who has to rush to calls, he understands how the accident happened and holds nothing against the police officer.
"I've got no hurt feelings," he said. "I've been involved in some accidents myself. When responding with lights and sirens, it's very difficult sometimes because people don't get out of your way. They get confused. It's a very hectic situation."
The police department's critical incident response team, trained in psychology, counseled Officer Park as well as the McCruden family, Mr. Miller said.
Mr. McCruden, 50, described his wife as a talented seamstress who sewed beautiful wedding gowns and extravagant holiday costumes from the Pillows Salon in Pikesville.
She loved any kind of dancing, but particularly Irish country dancing, which she often did at the monthly ceilidh -- Irish dance party -- at St. Pius X Catholic Church on York Road in Towson.
She also was a devoted mother, taking care of a son who has muscular dystrophy.
"She was a big-hearted, lovely woman," said Mr. McCruden. "She was a big-hearted Irish girl, very loved by everybody."
Mrs. McCruden, the former Mary Ann Keogh who was known to everyone as Ann, was born in Dublin.
She came to the United States in 1969 as a governess for a Howard County family. She married a year later and has been living in Baltimore ever since.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sons, Michael Garrett McCruden, 21, and Chad Edward McCruden, 19, both of Baltimore; four sisters, Betty Saunders of Dublin; Theresa O'Connor, also of Dublin; Brigitte Quinn of Baltimore and Claire Keogh, also of Baltimore, and two brothers, Eddie Keogh and Joseph Keogh, both of Dublin.
The family has not yet finalized funeral arrangements.