Cross­roads cam­paign con­tin­ues

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By TR­ISH MCGEE pm­[email protected]­coun­tynews.com

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.

PHOTO BY TR­ISH MCGEE

Anna Pecte­lidis of Massey, fore­ground, and oth­ers protest Sun­day af­ter­noon at the deadly in­ter­sec­tion of state Routes 544 and 290 in Crumpton.

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