Baltimore Sun

Police identify six dead workers

All were killed in Baltimore Beltway crash; video shows collision, aftermath

- By Dan Belson and Christine Condon

Maryland State Police identified the six highway contractor­s who were killed Wednesday when two cars collided on Interstate 695 in Woodlawn, causing one vehicle to flip into a constructi­on area.

The constructi­on workers were identified as Rolando Ruiz, 46, of Laurel; Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, 43, of Frederick; Jose Armando Escobar, 52, of Frederick; Mahlon Simmons III, 31, and his father, Mahlon Simmons II, 52, both of Union Bridge; and Sybil Lee Dimaggio, 46, of Glen Burnie.

Footage from a state transporta­tion camera shows the crash on the west side of the Baltimore Beltway. The video, obtained by media outlets following the collision, shows a gray Acura attempting to merge into the beltway’s leftmost lane and striking a white Volkswagen, causing the Acura to lose control and enter the work zone through a small gap in the jersey barriers.

The six highway workers were in a constructi­on zone on I-695, north of the beltway exits onto I-70 and Security Boulevard and south of Liberty Road, at about 12:40 p.m. Wednesday when they were struck by the Acura, which was operated by Lisa Adrienne Lea, 54, of Randallsto­wn. Police said she was trying to merge into the leftmost lane when she struck the Volkswagen, which was operated by Melachi Brown, 20, of Windsor Mill.

Lea is still receiving treatment at University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, police said. Brown stopped his vehicle north of the crash and was uninjured.

The six workers were declared dead at the scene.

“These are just people who are trying to earn a living and they end up dying because of it,” said Brad Sant, the senior vice president of

“It also serves as a stark reminder for all transporta­tion system users of the critical need for increased attention to the unique safety hazards associated with these sites.”

safety and education of the American Road and Transporta­tion Builders Associatio­n, calling the loss of six roadway workers “profound.”

In a statement, he said the crash “underscore­s the vulnerabil­ity of constructi­on workers in highway work zones.”

“It also serves as a stark reminder for all transporta­tion system users of the critical need for increased attention to the unique safety hazards associated with these sites,” he said.

The State Highway Administra­tion confirmed that the contractor­s were working on a project to address congestion along I-695 from I-70 to Maryland 43 in White Marsh by converting portions of the existing median shoulder into a travel lane during the morning and evening rush hours.

George Durm, who identified himself as Sybil Dimaggio’s husband, declined to say much Thursday afternoon, however, he did say: “The thing I can’t get over is she was terrified of that job site.”

Gerald Ullman, a senior research engineer at the Texas A&M Transporta­tion Institute who has seen the footage, said Wednesday’s deadly crash could be considered one in a million — or even one in a billion.

The footage shows the two cars collided and veered toward the work zone precisely where there was a gap in temporary jersey barriers, presumably to allow for constructi­on vehicles to enter and exit the zone, Ullman said.

“The odds of something — somebody who’s lost control — getting right into that small area is, you know, very, very unlikely,” Ullman said.

Ullman said that a barrier truck appeared to be positioned upstream — in terms of traffic flow — from the constructi­on workers to protect them, but it seems to have been moved aside to allow a gap for entry.

When deployed, truck-mounted attenuator­s — as they’re known by transporta­tion experts — serve as a crash cushion, aiming to absorb any impact and prevent cars from entering a work zone.

“When it gets hit by a vehicle, it crumbles and slows the vehicle down without causing the type of severe crash that would otherwise occur,” Ullman said.

In addition to using protective measures like barrier trucks and jersey walls, local authoritie­s can reduce speed limits in work zones and add signage indicating the presence of constructi­on crews. There were no reduced-speed-limit signs in place Thursday at the work zone. It’s unclear whether speed limits were reduced at the time of Wednesday’s crash. But sometimes, simply reducing a speed limit isn’t enough, Ullman added.

“People disregard it and say, ‘Yeah, there’s no reason,’ ” Ullman said. “You have to find some way to enforce that.”

In 2020, 170 pedestrian­s died in traffic work zones, following 141 in 2019, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administra­tion. That number does not differenti­ate between workers and other pedestrian­s, but speaks to the relative rarity of such events, Ullman said.

“Crashes that involve highway workers, although they’re not extremely frequent, they’re always severe,” Ullman said.

In addition to Maryland State Police, the National Transporta­tion Safety Board is investigat­ing the crash.

The federal agency said Thursday that two investigat­ors have been assigned to probe safety precaution­s at the work zone, and will focus on “issues relating to speeding, work zone protection for constructi­on workers, and collision avoidance technology.” Most NTSB investigat­ions are fully completed in one to two years, but a preliminar­y report is expected in about three weeks, the board said. Police said Wednesday evening that pending the results of the investigat­ion and a consultati­on with the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office, charges may be filed.

Those who witnessed the crash or have informatio­n they believe is relevant are urged to contact the NTSB at witness@ntsb. gov, and the Maryland State Police Golden Ring Barrack at 410-780-2700.

U.S. Transporta­tion Secretary Pete Buttigieg initiated a moment of silence in response to the crash during a Thursday budget hearing in the U.S. Senate after speaking on highway safety appropriat­ions.

“We still see too many fatal crashes on our roads,” he said. “We cannot and must not accept roadway fatalities are an inevitable part of life in America.”

“These six workers are more than just a number; they are hardworkin­g people, valued friends, cherished family and loved ones who tragically and unnecessar­ily lost their lives,” said Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, in a statement. “Our industry pleads with drivers to use caution and abide by traffic signs and signals when passing through constructi­on zones.”

— Brad Sant, the senior vice president of safety and education of the American Road and Transporta­tion Builders Associatio­n

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