Blowout may have preceded fatal crash Witness to accident testifies she heard loud noise before collision


A car involved in a fatal June accident on Route 140 near Finksburg may have blown a tire before the driver lost control, crossed the median and killed a Westminster woman, a witness said yesterday.

The crash killed Geraldine Lane "Geri" Wu, 42, and injured her daughter, Min-li, 14.

Pamela Elwood, a registered nurse, testifying during the second day of the auto manslaughter trial of Frederick H. Hensen Jr., 21, of Westminster and Scott D. Broadfoot Sr., 25, of Parkville, told jurors she heard a loud bang and saw a maroon Nissan go out of control.

Hensen and Broadfoot are accused of racing their souped-up Honda sports cars against the Nissan driven by Mark E. Eppig, 22, of Westminster, who has pleaded guilty to auto manslaughter.

Elwood told the panel of 12 jurors and three alternates in Circuit Court that she was riding with her fiance toward Finksburg near Sunset Lane and Route 140 about 9: 30 p.m. when she heard the noise.

Elwood said it could have been the sound of a tire blowing, or possibly a car backfiring, but it was not a metallic sound, as if two cars had sideswiped.

Startled by the sound, Elwood said she looked out the rear left-side window and saw a flash of light and a car speeding by her vehicle, which was traveling at 50 mph.

She said she saw a maroon Nissan careen across the median.

The Nissan struck a green car, she said.

Elwood said she screamed for her fiance to stop. She said she ran across the highway to the Nissan, which had spun into a ditch. She didn't find Eppig, who was on the rear floor.

She then ran to the green car, a Mitsubishi.

Elwood said she could hear Min-li Wu screaming. The recollection caused her to lose her composure briefly and, in the back of the courtroom, Min-li began crying quietly and covered her face with her hands.

Elwood said she was unable to find Mrs. Wu's pulse and turned her attention to Min-li.

No other state's witnesses yesterday raised speculation that the Nissan might have blown a tire.

Robert D. Timmons, a transportation inspector with the state police auto safety division, testified that Eppig's Nissan had several mechanical defects, but none contributed to the accident. He was not asked if the Nissan had a blown tire.

Eppig pleaded guilty on Oct. 27 to auto manslaughter and, in return for his promise to testify against Hensen and Broadfoot, he will serve no more than three years in jail.

Eppig is expected to testify today and is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

He and Min-li Wu were injured in the collision and were treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Continuing with testimony from Friday, Jeffrey Lauer, a Baltimore County K-9 officer, said he was on his way to work when three cars -- two black Hondas and a Nissan -- drove past him "in excess of 90 mph."

Joseph King of Catonsville testified that he was stopped at a red traffic signal at Sandymount Road when three vehicles -- the Hondas and the Nissan -- accelerated "very quickly," switched lanes in unison and drove around a pickup truck in the fast lane.

James Kraft of Finksburg said he was stopped in a left-turn lane at Suffolk Road when three small cars passed him so quickly that his Honda Accord shook.

Kraft was unable to identify the first two cars, or their drivers, but said a burgundy-colored Nissan was last in the line.

Pub Date: 11/17/98

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