After fixing up his new Bethany Beach house this summer, David Destino was eager to relax with his family there over the Labor Day weekend.
But first the Ellicott City man had to navigate one of the Eastern Shore's more treacherous routes, a rural road that authorities say is poorly equipped to handle heavy holiday traffic.
There on eastbound Route 404, a partially divided two-lane highway, a dump truck rear-ended the 2003 Ford Explorer that Destino was driving Friday afternoon, Maryland State Police said.
David Destino, 53, of Dunes Drive and his son, Michael, 13, died Friday as a result of the crash, police said. Mary Destino, 50, David's wife and Michael's mother, remained in critical condition last night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. All were wearing seat belts, police said.
Police identified the dump truck driver as Howard L. Johnson Jr., 50, of Denton, who works for Schultz and Sons, a Denton recycling company. He was not injured, police said.
No charges have been filed, police said, and the investigation is continuing. Several drivers had called 911 on cellular phones before the accident to report that the truck was driving recklessly, police said.
The accident in Queen Anne's County, near the Talbot County border, occurred when the driver of the 2007 Mack dump truck failed to stop at a traffic jam and slammed into the Explorer, triggering a chain reaction with two other vehicles, police said. The truck was carrying about 45,000 pounds of material, including a roll-off Dumpster filled with scrap metal. The Destinos' Ford Explorer then hit a 1997 Volkswagen Jetta driven by Timothy Baier, 35, of Baltimore and carrying his wife and 1-year-old son; they suffered minor injuries. The Jetta in turn struck a Toyota Range Rover, whose driver was not injured.
Accidents along this stretch of Route 404 tend to involve serious injuries caused by vehicles crossing the center line, said Cpl. Art Lohman of the Centreville barracks of the state police. But Lohman said Friday's accident was one of the worst crashes he has witnessed in his 22 years with the state police.
"Every trooper at the scene was very much affected by this tragedy," Lohman said.
The Destinos never made it to the Delaware beach, where their other son, Matthew, 23, and family friends awaited. Now Matthew Destino is keeping a vigil at the hospital as family and friends grapple with the loss and pray for Mary Destino's recovery.
"For all of us, this is just sinking in. It's just surreal," said Kevin Glover, who worked closely with David Destino and lived near the family.
A vice president and senior development director with Erickson Retirement Communities, David Destino was an automobile enthusiast who was also active in his church. His son, Michael, played on the basketball team at Resurrection-St. Paul School in Ellicott City before transferring to Loyola Blakefield last year, his former coach Brian Sweeney said.
"People are kind of just in shock," Sweeney said. "You just can't rationalize it."
In more than a decade with Erickson, David Destino succeeded at working to move development and zoning projects through, co-workers said.
"He was just one of these individuals you could talk to at any level," said John C. Erickson, the chairman and chief executive officer of Erickson Retirement Communities. "Whether it was the government officials or the neighbors near zoning sites, or even the contractors when we were launching projects, he was the kind of individual that everyone would just naturally trust."
A parishioner at the Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City, David Destino led efforts to build a new gym there and to expand the parish's Resurrection-St. Paul School, Sweeney said.
An automobile enthusiast, Destino enjoyed attending car shows, Glover said. He also restored cars, including a 1960s-era Corvette, Glover said.
Mary and David Destino had just celebrated their 27th anniversary last week, Glover said.
"Everything was about his sons and his wife," Glover said. "That was the center of his universe."