Crossroads campaign continues
CRUMPTON — Betty Schelts and Bonnie Larrimore took their posts near the intersection of state Routes 544 and 290 promptly at 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon, fulfilling a promise they had made to the community to bring awareness to the deadly crossroad.
The Crumpton area women stood on the sodden grass within earshot of the Outpost 544 convenience store, watching a steady stream of traffic traveling in all four directions. They waved brightly colored placards with the message “Save Lives 544 & 290.”
In smaller print the signs read, “Remember ALL!! Stop for Sam,” calling attention to the most recent fatality at the intersection.
Some motorists appeared
to be obeying the speed limit; others clearly were not. Some beeped their horns in support; others drove by without acknowledging the modest protest that ultimately would number 10 people over the course of an hour.
“I think the weather kept people away. We had more who told us they were coming and two people came after we left,” Schelts said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
She lives on Dudley Corners Road, also known as Route 290.
“Considering the weather, I think it was a great turnout,” Larrimore said in a separate phone call Tuesday. “I think we achieved our objective, which was to raise community awareness about how dangerous the intersection is. There needs to be a change,” said Larrimore, who lives about a quarter-mile from the intersection on Route 544.
It was overcast and rainy Sunday, eerily similar to the morning of Nov. 6 — Election Day — when Samantha Coleman, 29, and her three children ages 4, 9 and 12 were injured in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection here.
Coleman did not survive her injuries.
She is the sixth fatality at the routes 544-290 crossing, according to data that Schelts has collected.
Schelts has been laserfocused on the intersection since her husband was injured there nearly four years ago.
Her campaign to have the blinking lights — red on Route 544 and yellow on Route 290 — replaced with a solid red light has risen to a new level since last month’s fatal crash.
Others agree additional safety enhancements are needed.
“I’ve always thought that people come through there too fast. We’re just a little village,” said Linda Sherry, who walked about a mile from her home in Crumpton to join the protest.
“I hear them speeding past … it’s 30 mph in town,” she said while waving a placard. “It’s a dangerous intersection. One time when my sister was coming to visit me, someone pulled out in front of her.”
The sight of Schelts and Larrimore standing in the rain without an umbrella, waving their signs, caught the attention of the Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver, who was one of two drivers who stopped Sunday.
He is the pastor of nearby Boardly Chapel and was on his way home to Chestertown, where he is an elected town councilman. Traveling with Tolliver was Celestine Heath, a Crumpton-area resident and a member of the Boardly Chapel political action committee.
Tolliver stood with the group, which by this time included Sherry, fellow walker James Beck and Coleman’s maternal grandparents from Massey.
In a follow-up email Sun- day night, Tolliver, whose church is located about a mile from the intersection, wrote: “I travel through there almost every day. I had heard about the recent accident and have seen firsthand how those who travel through there drive too fast or sometimes ignore the lights. I think because it is only a two-way stop that some get confused.
“I had seen the Facebook post and mentioned it to my congregation this morning. Many members stated that the intersection has been a problem for a long time with many accidents.”
In his email, Tolliver said part of his church’s commitment to the area is to help bring attention to issues that affect the quality of life in northern Queen Anne’s County. He said many of his congregants live in the Pondtown area and frequently travel through the treacherous intersection.
“It’s awful,” said Alma Winchester, who attends Boardly Chapel. She stopped to offer her support and make a donation to the GoFundMe account established for Coleman’s children.
“I have friends who have been in accidents there. I was almost in an accident. It is horrible,” Winchester added.
Coleman’s grandparents Victor Redding and Anna Pectelidis of Massey arrived shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday, and immediately took up their posts with placards. Each time someone joined the group, Redding thanked them.
The inclement weather did not faze Pectelidis, wearing a scarf and unzipped heavy cotton jacket that did very little to keep her dry.
“Any time you can save another’s life, it’s important,” she said, vigorously waving a placard. “Even if it’s just to make people slow down.”
Slowing down would be an improvement, but Schelts said she won’t be satisfied until the State Highway Administration puts up a solid red light.
She is optimistic that the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners and the District 36 delegation to the Maryland General Assembly will join her movement.
Schelts emailed an online petition with nearly 1,900 signatures to Commissioner Jack Wilson, who represents the northern part of the county, and Del. Steve Arentz. She has asked them to facilitate scheduling a town hall-style meeting with SHA representatives so that community members can talk about their concerns.
Schelts said Tuesday night that there has been no response from state transportation officials, and she does not expect to hear from them until the first of the new year.
In a Nov. 30 email, Wilson told Schelts that he would “fight for the light regardless of the state’s position.”
As of press time Wednesday, no charges had been filed related to last month’s fatal crash.
Maryland State Police reported that the crash occurred at about 6:30 a.m. Nov. 6. Michael Addison Marston, 53, of Parkville was operating a 2015 International box truck and Samantha Coleman of Galena was operating a 2011 Hyundai Sonata.
According to the preliminary investigation, Marston, after stopping at the intersection of westbound Route 544 and Route 290, attempted to make a lefthand turn onto southbound Route 290. Police reported that Marston failed to yield the right of way to Coleman, who was traveling northbound on Route 290.
Police said Coleman’s car collided with the left rear portion of the box truck and came to rest in a drainage ditch on the shoulder of Route 544.
Marston was able to pull the box truck to the shoulder of southbound Route 290, according to police.
Coleman was transported by ambulance to Kent General Hospital in Dover, Del., while the children were transported by ambulance to A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., according to police.
Coleman died Nov. 9. She was an organ donor, according to friends.
Anna Pectelidis of Massey, foreground, and others protest Sunday afternoon at the deadly intersection of state Routes 544 and 290 in Crumpton.