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The Baltimore Sun

Woman loses control of car at ceremony

A Baltimore woman lost control of her Ford Crown Victoria sedan yesterday in Northwest Baltimore and careered past politicians and other state officials getting ready for an event that would feature Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Margarie Hall, the driver, said that when she put her car into gear in the parking lot of the shopping plaza near Wabash Avenue and West Northern Parkway, it accelerated and she couldn't stop it. She hit a parked car and then maneuvered past state officials and a transit bus, up an embankment and across a busy intersection, crashing into railroad tracks near a Maryland Transit Administration maintenance facility.

Two MTA workers ran from a nearby building to warn Hall not to step out of her car, which rested on the third rail, which carries electricity, said state Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, who witnessed the accident. After the power was cut, she emerged unharmed from the driver's seat and took questions from a throng of reporters who were there for the governor's event.

Hall, 76, was not ticketed or arrested, said Officer Troy Harris, a city police spokesman. "We figured she had gone through enough," he said. He added that Hall might have hit the accelerator when she thought she was pressing the brake pedal.

Hall said she was grateful that no one had been hurt. O'Malley, who arrived late and didn't see the accident, shook Hall's hand after the event, which was organized to announce a new advertising campaign designed to help combat home foreclosures.

"Somebody was looking out for you this morning, and we know who," the governor told her.

"By God's grace and mercy," she replied.

O'Malley nodded and said, "I'm going to be on time for the next event," as he walked to his vehicle.

Laura Smitherman

Harford County

Havre de Grace

Teen charged in hospital fire

A 16-year-old Port Deposit teen has been charged with malicious burning after the boy set fire to a toilet paper dispenser in the emergency room bathroom at Harford Memorial Hospital yesterday morning, the state fire marshal's office said.

The youth had been taken to the hospital the night before after his parents called police during a disturbance at the home, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph G. Zurolo Jr. An ambulance took the teen to the hospital for an emergency evaluation.

When the teen was told he was being sent to the Rockford Center, a facility in Delaware for people with mental health problems, he asked to go to the bathroom, where he set the fire about 10:30 a.m., Zurolo said.

Once he is released from Rockford, the teen will probably be turned over to Juvenile Services and could be charged with second-degree arson, Zurolo said.

Ellie Baublitz

Howard County

District Court

Driver in fatal accident pays fees

The case against the Columbia woman who was speeding when her car struck and killed a Howard County police officer last year has been dismissed after she paid the traffic fines resulting from the accident, the county state's attorney's office said yesterday.

Prosecutors said Stephanie Latoya Grissom paid two traffic citations Friday rather than appear in District Court to contest the case, which was scheduled for today. Grissom received three points on her driving record and paid $310 in fines for negligent driving and speeding, investigators said.

On June 16, 2007, Grissom was traveling on Route 32 near Interstate 95 when Officer Scott Wheeler, who was working a speed enforcement detail, stepped out into the road to flag her down and the car struck him. Police said Grissom was driving 71 mph in a 55 mph zone.

In March, a Howard County grand jury declined to indict Grissom on automobile manslaughter charges.

Tyeesha Dixon

Anne Arundel

Fort Meade

Army to renovate four barracks

The Army will spend $52 million renovating four Korean War-era barracks at Fort Meade, officials at the military post in Anne Arundel County said this week.

The four buildings were each built to house about 166 service members in training. Renovations are scheduled to begin on two of the buildings this year and be completed by 2010, said Tom White, Fort Meade's housing officer. Renovations will start on the two others by 2010, he said.

He said Fort Meade recently inspected all of its barracks and relocated several soldiers who occupied rooms in need of repairs. Problems included mold, leaky pipes and windows that do not open, White said.

The announcement followed a controversy last month involving rundown housing conditions at barracks in Fort Bragg, N.C.

White said the renovation plans at Fort Meade were in place long before media coverage of the Fort Bragg conditions.

Josh Mitchell

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