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Drinking cited as major factor in fatal collision


Alcohol appeared to be a "major contributing factor" in a head-on collision that killed four people and seriously injured another in southern Anne Arundel County, police said yesterday.

The three-vehicle accident happened about 11:35 p.m. Saturday when a northbound station wagon driven by a 39-year-old Arnold woman crossed the center line of two-lane Solomons Island Road, south of Harwood Road, and collided head-on with a pickup truck.

The dead included the driver of the station wagon, Terry Lynn Machen of Arnold, and her two passengers, Robert K. Odell, 32, of Severna Park, and Joseph F. Rodrigues Jr., 39, of Edgewater.

Michael G. DeVaughn, 47, driver of the southbound pickup truck, was seriously injured while his wife, Shirley, 46, was killed. The couple were returning home to Calvert County from a family anniversary party at the time of the crash, police said.

The driver of a third car, Vonda Lee Barnett, 34, of Lothian, received minor injuries when she hit the back of the pickup after the initial crash, according to the county police.

Investigators, in noting the apparent link to drinking, said numerous empty beer cans were found in the station wagon. The vehicle "was full of beer cans, and it smelled of beer," said Anne Arundel Officer C. Gregory Russell. "The people in there definitely were drinking."

Officer Russell said the blood-alcohol level of the victims would be determined by the state medical examiner's office.

Police also said it appeared that the station wagon's headlights were not turned on. They said that none of those killed was wearing a seat belt.

The DeVaughns, who lived in the 6300 block of Oaklyn Court in Dunkirk, had not been drinking, police said.

Mrs. DeVaughn died after being taken by ambulance to Anne Arundel General Hospital. Her husband was flown by a state police helicopter to the Prince George's Hospital Center, where he was listed in serious condition yesterday.

Ms. Machen lived in the 700 block of Cottage Drive in Arnold. Her husband declined to comment. County police said Ms. Machen had a clean driving record.

Mr. Odell, who lived in the 400 block of Cardiff Court in Severna Park, was a construction worker and father of two, said his brother, John.

Mr. Rodrigues, a drywall worker who lived in the 1500 block of Mayfield Road in Edgewater, was described as "an all-around good guy" by John Blake, a neighbor.

Ms. Barnett, the driver of the third vehicle, was released after treatment for minor injuries at Anne Arundel General Hospital.

Ms. Barnett, who lives in the 5200 block of Sands Road in Lothian, said her car was traveling about 35 mph when the station wagon veered into the path of the truck in front of her in the southbound lane.

"I said, 'Oh no, he's going to hit the truck,' " she said. "Then I hit the back of the truck and went into the ditch. I was scared. I thank the Lord I'm here today."

Ms. Barnett said she believes her seat belt saved her life. Even so, she said she was in agony yesterday.

"I am aching all over, I have migraine headaches and my neck is stiff," she said. "I wonder, why me? And I wonder why the other people."

Mrs. DeVaughn was a secretary in the construction management division at the University of Maryland College Park. She answered the phone and typed correspondence for about two dozen people in the office. She often brought in cakes for office birthdays.

Mr. DeVaughn is a relay tester for the Potomac Electric Power Co., where he has worked for about 25 years.

The couple enjoyed country dancing and spent many hours on their boat fishing on the Chesapeake Bay, friends said.

"She was very bubbly, a very cheerful person," said Al Bergin, a friend.

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