Andrew Ray Sturgil and Stephanie Ann Dorsey met just weeks ago.
Sturgil, a 31-year-old native of Kentucky, was in Maryland to see his young daughter. He met Dorsey, 24, through acquaintances renting the upstairs of the Glen Burnie home where Dorsey had been staying, according to a family friend.
Soon after the couple met, they began dating, the friend said.
"She was just real carefree, just always happy, always having a good time," said Amanda Guy, the family friend who also lives in the home on Ferndale Road.
On Tuesday, Sturgil and Dorsey died when the 2000 Nissan Altima in which they were riding collided with a cargo truck on U.S. 1 in Howard County amid morning rush-hour traffic. Dorsey's mother, Rhonda Lynn White, 42, and infant sister, Riley Ash Smith, 7 months, were also killed, police said yesterday.
The fifth occupant of the Nissan was 3-year-old Rachel Lynn Hatt, police said. The child remained in critical condition yesterday at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
Police said the Nissan, which was moving south, crossed the yellow center lines and hit the truck moving north head-on. Sturgil was driving and Dorsey was riding in the front seat, police said, and both were wearing a seat belt. White, the mother of the three female passengers, rode in the back seat and was not wearing a seat belt, police said. Riley was also in the back seat in a child safety seat.
Rachel was in the back seat and wearing a seat belt, but police said the child should have been in a child safety seat because of her age and weight. Investigators believe a safety seat could have reduced her injuries, police said.
The girl will turn 4 in June, said Guy, who said she is the girlfriend of Dorsey's brother.
The accident occurred about 7:30 a.m. between Routes 175 and 32. U.S. 1 was shut down for about five hours while investigators and cleanup crews worked.
The occupants of the cargo truck -- Stanley Wells, 54, of Baltimore, who was driving, and passenger Sean Foote, 23, of Columbia -- suffered minor injuries and were taken to Howard County General Hospital, where they were discharged Tuesday. They work for an area liquor distributor.
Police said they do not expect to bring charges against Wells.
Dorsey and her sisters resided with other family members in a brown single-family home with an enclosed porch on a relatively quiet block off Aviation Boulevard. Over time, Dorsey had stayed at the home intermittently but had been there more in recent times.
"We just spent the last week with her before this happened," Guy said. "The whole family was very close."
Police described White and her daughters as Laurel residents. Guy said that Dorsey and her sisters grew up in Laurel but had lived in Glen Burnie for some time and that White was a regular visitor to the home.
Dorsey and White had encountered legal troubles in recent years, court records show. Dorsey pleaded guilty to drug possession charges in 2002 and 2003, according to court records. Drug possession charges were pending against White, court records show, though the disposition of the cases was unclear.
Sturgil, who police said is from Cumberland, Ky., loved his daughter and was excited to see her, Guy recalled.
"He was always showing us pictures, always talking about her," Guy said. "She meant the world to her dad."
About a week and a half ago, Guy said, Sturgil displayed aggressive driving tendencies when they were traveling together on U.S. 1. To avoid waiting in traffic, Guy said, Sturgil crossed the center yellow lines to pass cars ahead of him.
Police said yesterday that the investigation into Tuesday's accident continues, and they have not determined why the Nissan crossed the yellow line. They urged anyone who was in the area around the time of the crash and might have relevant information to call Howard County police at 410-313-3700.
In the meantime, Guy said she plans to make a collage of family photos to be displayed at the funeral, which has not been scheduled.
"We're just making sure that the little one's OK," Guy said, referring to Rachel. "We're doing all right. It's a lot that we're going to have to deal with."