Two teen-age girls from Baltimore County were killed yesterday when a car in which they were traveling crossed the median of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and collided nearly head-on with a bus.
The crash about 3:15 p.m. closed the southbound lanes of the parkway for more than two hours and disrupted traffic in both directions for part of the late-afternoon commute.
The victims - both 16 years old and students at Perry Hall High School - were identified last night as driver Ashley M. Samuels of Chapeltowne Circle in Perry Hall and passenger Rachel M. Betts of the 5600 block of Gunpowder Road in White Marsh.
Rachel's parents, Connie and Chris Betts, said last night that the girls were best friends, and with the holiday off from school were going shopping.
"They were inseparable," the mother said.
The girls were pronounced dead at the accident scene, south of the Patapsco River border of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.
State police reconstructing the accident said driver error on the part of the teen driver may have caused the accident.
The 2004 Toyota Corolla was northbound when Ashley switched lanes, moving into the fast lane and cutting in front of a taxicab whose driver was unable to avoid hitting the car's rear bumper as she hit the brakes, police said.
She may have been attempting an illegal U-turn across the median, police said - but the initial investigation, including tire marks left in ankle-high grass in the median, gave no sign that she had tried to stop after the impact with the cab.
Police said use of the median is reserved for law enforcement and emergency vehicles only.
As the Toyota entered the southbound lanes, it collided with a tour bus in the fast lane whose lone occupant was the driver. The impact turned the Toyota's engine block into a tangle of metal.
The taxi driver, Lanrewaju Abiola, 56, of Baltimore, and the driver of the bus, Craig Bows, 55, of Columbia, were not injured, and no charges were expected to be filed against them, police said.
Abiola stopped on the shoulder of the parkway, expecting to exchange information with the driver of the car, police said.
"She may not have seen the bus," said Trooper Joel Schindler, a state police crash team investigator.
The Toyota was knocked about 100 yards down the parkway. The bus also was damaged - the front driver's side crushed and the front windows shattered.
Black tire marks from the bus streaked across three lanes of the parkway, leading to a length of twisted guardrail where it finally came to a halt.
Ron Dillon Jr., whose family has operated Dillon's Bus Service Inc. since 1918, said Bows was undergoing drug and alcohol testing, as required by federal law.
Bows, who has worked for the company since November, was physically fine but mentally shaken, Dillon said, adding, "We will do whatever it takes to make sure he gets the support he needs."
The fatal accident was the company's first, said Dillon, who is also an Anne Arundel County Council member.
"We've never been involved in anything like this before," he said.
Bows had been driving to Washington to pick up Baltimore-area commuters, Dillon said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families," he said.
As a result of the accident, police closed the parkway's southbound lanes for more than two hours and detoured rush-hour traffic to alternate routes, including Annapolis Road. Police also slowed northbound traffic for a time, to allow southbound motorists to turn around.
The highway reopened about 5:45 p.m., after the bus, taxi and Toyota were towed away, and glass and other debris were swept away.
Relatives of the young driver could not be reached last night.
At the Betts household in White Marsh last night, family members from across the country were gathering.
Chris Betts called his eldest daughter a good girl who never got in trouble and never missed curfew. "She was very respectful," he said.
Brenda Scarborough, the girl's aunt, called her "an angel." Family members giggled when they recalled Rachel's taste in music - she liked rap and country, they said.
Sun staff writer Andrew A. Green contributed to this article.