Truck driver survives 70-foot plunge off I-95 into river

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A Bowie truck driver survived a 70-foot plunge off a bridge on Interstate 95 in Savage yesterday morning after he swerved to avoid a woman who had stepped onto the roadway and his box truck flipped over a wall, landing upside-down in the icy Middle Patuxent River.

The accident came during a series of collisions at the end of the morning rush hour, about 9 a.m., and closed northbound I-95 for about an hour, causing a traffic jam that nearly reached the Capital Beltway, state police said.

The truck driver, Dorek C. Miles, 26, was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was in serious but stable condition last night.

His mother, Gloria Miles of Crofton, said her son broke both legs and dislocated his left hip.

"It was just amazing that that was all the injuries he suffered," she said. "It was just by the grace of God."

Miles, who was wearing a seat belt, was trapped inside the truck cab for about four minutes. He was freed by Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue workers, who were on the scene responding to an earlier accident.

The rescue workers pulled him up to the roadway five minutes later by attaching a tow-truck cable to a basket-shaped stretcher, said Fire Department spokesman Bill Mould.

"He's extremely lucky," said Sgt. Rob Moroney, a state police spokesman, who noted that falls of 30 feet or more are usually fatal. "We're very fortunate we weren't investigating a fatal crash."

Last night there was an accident on I-95 south, almost directly across from yesterday morning's collisions, police said. About 6 p.m., a tractor-trailer changed lanes and struck a car. The car spun and hit the tractor-trailer again. No one was seriously injured, police said.

Yesterday's accidents started at 8:42 a.m., when Nada Rakovich of Dunedin, Fla., was driving a tractor-trailer north on I-95 near Route 32. She changed lanes and collided with a car, according to police.

The trailer and car pulled over to the right shoulder, and as police and paramedics worked to clear the scene, Rakovich stepped into the right lane of the interstate, police said.

Driving a 2001 Freightliner box truck, Miles swerved to avoid Rakovich, moved to the adjacent lane, lost control of the truck and was rear-ended by a 1999 Mack truck, police said.

Leased to Brambles USA Inc. of Lanham, the empty box truck then struck the wall of the bridge over the Middle Patuxent River and flipped over it. The truck fell 70 feet to an embankment, slid several feet and came to rest on its roof in the river, police said.

The driver of the Mack truck, owned by BFI Waste Management Inc. in Capitol Heights, swerved to the left and became entangled with three cars.

Miles was the only person to suffer serious injuries, police said.

Rakovich, 50, was charged with walking on a controlled-access highway - which carries a $55 fine - and making an unsafe lane change. She was also charged with driving with a suspended out-of-state license, for which she was arrested and taken before a Howard County District Court commissioner, Moroney said. She posted $2,500 bond, he said.

The accident caused the north portion of the roadway to be closed between Routes 216 and 32 for about an hour, resulting in a three- to five-mile backup. Two left lanes reopened about 10 a.m., and all lanes were open by 4 p.m., police said.

Workers from the Maryland Department of the Environment responded to the scene, and spokesman Richard J. McIntire said it appeared the truck spilled only a few gallons of diesel fuel into the river. The waterway's velocity and ice made it impossible to clean up any gas, he said.

"We will continue to monitor the situation," McIntire said. "But we don't expect any lasting impacts."

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