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6 injured in accident on U.S. 29 Van with 14 workers crashes, snarling rush-hour traffic


A van carrying 14 masonry workers ran off the road and overturned on southbound U.S. 29 in Ellicott City yesterday, sending six occupants to area hospitals and jamming traffic during the morning rush hour, authorities said.

One occupant, Rodney Reed of Clearspring, was flown by state police helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was treated for a sprained neck, said Donna Tedrick, a spokeswoman for Mr. Reed's employer, Bragunier Masonry Contractors in Clearspring. Mr. Reed's age was not available.

The accident occurred shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday on U.S. 29, south of Frederick Road, police said. The 1989 Ford van veered off the right side of the road and struck two construction barrels.

The van, which belonged to Bragunier Masonry, then came back onto the road and struck more construction barriers before coming to rest on its side, police said.

The van's driver, Charles M. French, 54, of Mercersburg, Pa., may have taken his eyes off the road or fallen asleep, police said. He was charged with negligent driving.

Mr. French and one passenger were taken to St. Agnes Hospital in Catonsville, where they were treated and released, authorities JTC said. Three other occupants were taken to Howard County General Hospital in Columbia, where they were treated and released, according to the police and Ms. Tedrick.

The other eight occupants involved in the accident were either treated at the scene or refused treatment, police said.

The 14 workers had left Clearspring to do masonry work at the Maryland House of Corrections in Jessup, Ms. Tedrick said.

The accident closed southbound lanes of U.S. 29 for one hour, snarling traffic, witnesses said. Two hours later, all lanes reopened, police said.

"It certainly messed up commuter traffic," said Battalion Chief Donald R. Howell, spokesman for Howard County Fire and Rescue Services.

"It was just a big parking lot," said motorist Michelle Scott, 24, of Ellicott City. After watching the state police helicopter land, she took U.S. 40 to Dorsey Hall as a shortcut to her job at Young Care Child Development Center on Guilford Road in Columbia. She said she was 20 minutes late.

"From 7 [a.m.] to 8 [a.m.] we were stuck in that line," said Gregory Carter, 40, of Woodlawn. He said he and his driver were stuck on U.S. 29 trying to get to work at Standard Medical Imaging on Red Branch Road in Columbia. After "slowly, but surely" merging into traffic, they made it, he said.

"It was a nightmare," said another motorist, Diane Michel, 27, of Woodlawn.

At work yesterday, she said she normally takes Interstate 695 to Interstate 70 to U.S. 29 to go to work as a customer service representative at Metromedia Paging Services in Columbia. But when she reached I-70 and U.S. 29, cars were backed up.

"It was crazy," she said. "Nobody would let you pass.

"I sat there and I sat there," she said, until finally she followed other motorists onto a shoulder and took U.S. 40 east to travel in the opposite direction.

Unfamiliar with the area, she got lost in Ellicott City and wound up by the Double T-Diner in Baltimore County, "where I started out."

The traffic tie-up made her 40 minutes late. She said her boss was understanding, though.

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