A six-vehicle pileup yesterday morning on U.S. 50 near the western Anne Arundel County line killed two county residents and an Alexandria, Va., woman, sent five others to area hospitals and all but shut down traffic in both directions of the highway for hours.
The accident, which occurred about 10 a.m., was triggered by a blowout of the left-front tire of an eastbound moving van that sent it careening across the median into the westbound lanes, state police said.
The 1997 International van slammed into a 1995 Dodge Caravan minivan, then landed on a 2003 Toyota Avalon, police said.
The Caravan's driver, Xuan Thanh P. Tran, 37, of Monticello Avenue in Annapolis, and its front-seat passenger, Toi V. Tran, 45, of College Manor Court in Arnold, were killed instantly, police said.
The Avalon's driver, Ann W. Williams, 54, of Alexandria, was pinned under her car and died at the scene, police said.
Two westbound Toyota Corollas and a 1997 Chevrolet stake-body truck also became involved in the chain reaction, said state police Sgt. Thornnie Rouse.
"There was a lot going on at the scene," Rouse said. "It was devastation."
Five people were taken to hospitals. A state police helicopter flew the moving van's driver, Alexander H. Hilton, 51, of Fredericksburg, Va., and the driver of a 1994 Toyota Corolla, Stephen J. Haynes, 25, of Almaden Court in Bowie, to Prince George's Trauma Center in Cheverly. Police said all five were expected to survive.
Rouse said the state police crash team will forward information from its investigation to the state's attorney's office.
Authorities shut down westbound U.S. 50 for five hours and for several hours after the crash allowed traffic through only along the right shoulder of the eastbound side near the accident site, Rouse said.
Westbound traffic was backed up for more than five miles for much of the afternoon. As rush hour approached, traffic was still crawling, state police said.
"To lose three lives so quickly ... and all from a blown tire," Rouse said.