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UM student leader killed in crash 20-year-old senior's grandfather also dies in Garrett Co. accident


DEEP CREEK LAKE -- The student government president of the University of Maryland, College Park was killed near her Deep Creek Lake home yesterday morning in a traffic accident that also took the life of her maternal grandfather.

Meghan Elizabeth Price, 20, a senior majoring in government and politics, was fatally injured just before 11 a.m. at Bittinger and Sky Valley roads in Swanton, Garrett County.

Also killed was her grandfather, Carl Talmadge Johnson, 75, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., who was a passenger in the 1996 Plymouth Neon being driven by Price.

Family members said Price and her grandfather were headed to Uno's Restaurant in Deep Creek, where she worked as a waitress during breaks from school. Her grandfather and grandmother, Eloween Evans Johnson, had come to Deep Creek to visit their family over the holidays.

At the Price home, tucked alongside the Deep Creek River in the snowy back roads of Western Maryland, yesterday was one of hugs, tears and memories of Price's many accomplishments.

Even at her youngest she was a small-town girl with big-time ambitions, earning a number of citations, including slots with the Omicrom Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society, the LeaderShape Institute and the College Park Scholars Program.

"I always said I don't know where this child came from," said her mother, Karlyn Price, a special education teacher at Broad Ford Elementary School. "She was a leader from the time she could talk, which was very early, like 10 months old. I remember she once tried to take over a kindergarten class and the teacher had to remind her who the teacher was."

Said her father, John Price, a supervisor at the Westvaco Paper Co. whose friends know him as "Sunshine": "There was nothing she couldn't do. She was tremendous."

Meghan Price had been pursuing a career in politics, applying to law schools around the country while becoming known around the College Park campus even before her ascension to student government president.

As a junior at College Park, Price was elected vice president of campus affairs and ran for president this past October as the candidate of the Vision Party. Out of a field of four, she won by a 371-vote margin with 2,513 votes cast. Approximately 32,000 students attend College Park.

When the university's athletic department ordered the pep band to quit playing its own raw version of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2," it was Price who led efforts to save the student-body favorite. The song remained.

In her inaugural address after her fall election, Price noted such campus accomplishments as the building of a new recreation center and an increase in admissions standards, both achieved during her first three years at the school.

"[Building on that progress] is the main reason I aspired to be the student government president at the University of Maryland," she said. "I believe I have the background to lead our student body in the struggle to the top."

Earlier this month, she said that meetings with College Park President C. D. "Dan" Mote Jr. were influential in raising the university chief's awareness of students needs. Price reported that Mote was shocked to hear that the students wanted to see more of him around the school.

In a statement released last night, Mote said: "The University of Maryland family is deeply shocked and saddened at the tragic loss of Meghan Price and her grandfather. Meghan was a very focused, hard-driving, goal-oriented person who came forward with problems and proposed solutions for them, solutions that we were working together to implement."

Last night, her parents remembered their daughter's dual missions: to succeed personally but also to help others along the way. Price taught blind skiers on the hills near her house; she lent an ear to anybody who needed one.

On an application to a leadership program, she had written: "There has not been a certain person to make a vast impact in my life. Everyone that I come into contact with influences my thoughts and feelings."

The grandfather she died with was one of her best friends, the family said.

"Her grandfather was everything to her, and he was proud of everything she did," Karlyn Price said as family and friends gathered in her home. "She gave him a picture of her inauguration for Christmas. He was the only one who got one."

In Swanton, where neighbors are sparse but neighborliness is abundant, the local high school canceled its "Snowball Classic" basketball tournament out of respect for Price and her grandfather.

The parents said they are not certain how to cope with what happened. They're working on it, but they are stunned and saddened and need time. John Price had been in his office at the paper company when a state trooper called him from the receptionist's desk and asked him to step into a conference room. There, he got the news. The trooper drove him home. A state police chaplain followed in Mr. Price's car.

Karlyn Price was at home yesterday when she got a call from Uno's. Her daughter had not reported for work. Immediately, the family set out to look for her. They came upon the crash not a mile from their home.

"I looked at the wreckage and knew Meghan didn't survive," her mother said.

State police at the McHenry barracks said Price tried to merge into traffic on northbound Bittinger Road from a stop sign on Sky Valley. When she did, police said, her Neon moved into the path of a 1994 Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by Justin Hunter Steyer, 20, of Oakland.

The truck hit the compact car on the left side near the driver's door, police said. The posted speed limit on Bittinger Road is 50 mph, though a police report noted no indication of excessive speed on the part of Steyer.

Steyer was treated for minor injuries at Garrett County Memorial Hospital and released, police said. Price and Johnson were declared dead on arrival at the same hospital. The accident is being investigated.

A 1995 graduate of Southern High School in Garrett County, Price was under consideration for an appointment to the Naval Academy when she opted for the University of Maryland.

Services for Price and her grandfather will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 318 E. Oak St., Oakland.

Contributions to a scholarship in Price's name may be sent to First United Bank, Second Street, Oakland, Md. 21550.

Her survivors also include a brother, Jonathan, a senior at Southern High School.

Pub Date: 12/30/98

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