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June 23, 2009

Drag racing on I-70 called frequent occurrence

Skid marks on I-70At Vince Sigismondi’s Baltimore County apartment backing up to Interstate 70 near the city line, the early morning hours on weekends frequently brings the sounds of drag racing.

"I ususally come out between 1 and 4, and smoke a couple cigarettes and exercise my leg a bit. I can sit out there and hear them doing the quarter-mile,” the 51-year-old Army veteran said Monday. “I say God help them if they hit something. . . . They’re finished.”

Early Sunday morning, as Sigismondi was dozing at his aprtment off Ingleside Avenue, two lives came to an end on the lightly traveled stretch of I-70 inside the Beltway when an apparent drag race took a deadly turn.

Mary-Kathryn Michele Abernathy of Columbia, 21, and Jonathan Robert Henderson, 20, of La Plata in Charles County, were killed when a westbound 2009 Chevrolet Impala went out of control and set off a chain reaction crash that killed them and left two others injured.

Donnell Raeburn, 26, of Pikesville, and Paul Alan Duffy, 22, of Elkridge were taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in critical condition.

The Maryland State Police and State Highway Administration say they had already been in contact to discuss ways to prevent racing on that stretch of highway, where I-70 ends at a small park-and-ride just inside the city line. Among the possible solutions mentioned: rumble strips or cameras to monitor activity on that road.

Sun photo/Algerina Perna


Sgt. Arthur Betts, a State Police spokesman, said a final accident report could take months to complete. Police said Monday that they had not yet determined what role Raeburn, the 26-year-old driver of the Impala, played in the incident.

 But out on the highway, physical evidence suggested how the scenario unfolded. Just west of where the ramp from Ingleside Avenue merges into westbound I-70 at milepost 4B, two parallel pairs of recent skid marks blackened the pavement as if made by racers coming out of a starting gate with wheels smoking.

Sigismondi said he frequently hears tires squealing on the interstate. “They do black burnouts and something lights up as they’re taking off,” he said.

About a quarter-mile down the highway, near the I-70 interchange with Interstate 695, another set of skid marks showed where a driver had lost control of his vehicle and left the roadway. Tire tracks showed where at least one vehicle went down a small embankment and crashed into some small trees. Signs could be seen of recent rescue activity, including a discarded neck brace and black latex gloves, and broken windshield glass littered the scene.

Police said the Impala driven by Raeburn struck a 2004 Cavalier owned by Duffy, who was standing outside his vehicle. The Cavalier was pushed into the rear of a 1995 Acura Integria owned by Henderson, who had been standing with Abernathy. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

The section of I-70 east of the Baltimore Beltway is a vestige of an earlier plan to extend the highway into the heart of Baltimore. That plan was canceled in the 1980s because of environmental concerns and community protests. Besides the park and ride, that leg of I-70 serves Security Boulevard and Cooks Lane.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:25 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads


Didn't take very long to say that cameras could be used.

It's the car's fault. If the cars weren't so fast and souped up this would have never happened. Maybe we could sue the manufacturers in a class action suit, make millions for the citizens and then actually use the money for pork barrel intersts like a road to "nowhere". Oh wait, that was already done to make this road.

Maybe the state troopers who are out ticketing commuters on their way home from work almost everyday, could actually go out there at night and stop clearly dangerous and illegal activity. I mean what's more important raising revenue off the few hundred folks unfortunate enough to be pulled over at the end of the freeway or actually keeping us safe and preventing illegal activity?

My guess is it's raising revenue. See you at the races.

So the days of Dodge Darts, Turbocharged Riveras, Cameros with Big blocks and Mustangs didn't have deadly drag races?

Not like this was a coupe of Civics. This was an American Muscle car. - da best. Keep it going!

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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