Inmate killed by truck on I-495

The Baltimore Sun

A state prison inmate was struck by a dump truck and killed yesterday morning while working on a cleanup detail on the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County - the second fatality involving a Division of Correction highway crew in the past three months.

The Maryland State Police, who are investigating the incident, said the victim's identity was being withheld until the family could be notified.

Police said the victim was working on a trash-removal detail shortly after 10 a.m. near Interstate 495 and Landover Road with five other male inmates from the Herman L. Toulson Boot Camp in Jessup.

Police said a State Highway Administration safety vehicle and a prison passenger van were closing a ramp to let the workers cross from the center median to the right shoulder when a 2002 Kenworth dump truck drove around the safety vehicles and struck the inmate as he tried to cross.

He was taken by ambulance to Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly, where he was pronounced dead.

The driver of the dump truck, identified as Wayne H. Gross, 38, of Clinton, remained at the scene and was unhurt. No charges had been filed, but investigators were planning to present evidence to the Prince George's County state's attorney's office.

Police said the inmates were wearing the required fluorescent green safety vests and were being supervised by correctional officers, who provided first aid before the ambulance arrived.

The death is the second recent traffic fatality involving an inmate on the Prince George's stretch of the Capital Beltway.

In June, Baltimore prison inmate James Morton-Bey, 27, died and another inmate was injured while serving on a work crew when a car ran off the inner loop in Oxon Hill and struck them.

Maj. Priscilla Doggett, a spokeswoman for the Division of Correction, said the agency is concerned that there have been two fatal accidents so close together. She said the state had never had an inmate road-crew fatality before June.

"There is no indication that there were any procedural errors that contributed to this accident," she said. "We will take the moment to reflect - to look back on this - to see if there are any additional precautions we can take."

Critic finds no fault

Kimberly Haven, executive director of Justice Maryland and a frequent critic of the division's policies, found no fault with the agency or its correctional officers' efforts to protect road crews.

"The C.O. staff out there is very mindful that they're at the side of the road," she said. "They do take as many precautions as they can to make sure the people are safe."

Haven said motorists need to look out for highway workers.

"When we see anybody on the side of the road, it should be an automatic trigger that we need to be mindful about what's around us and slow down," she said.

The inmate deaths are part of a recent spate of fatal accidents whose victims were working on state highways.

They include a State Highway Administration worker, a Howard County police officer flagging down a motorist and - last week - two employees of a contractor at a Burtonsville work site.

Aug. 14 accident

James Cronin, 37, of Glen Burnie and Martin Ruffin, 30, of Baltimore were killed in the Aug. 14 hit-and-run accident. The driver, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, later surrendered to police.

In June, state highway worker Richard W. Moser, 57, was struck and killed by a pickup truck while leading a maintenance team on a highway ramp near Frederick.

Also that month, Howard police Cpl. Scott Wheeler, 31, was fatally injured while stepping into the roadway to flag down a suspected speeder in Savage.

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