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Deadly Accidents Close Key Nebraska, Maryland Roads

May 25, 2003|From Associated Press

A series of pileups in Maryland and an overpass collapse in Nebraska shut down portions of two major interstates Saturday at the start of Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest travel holidays of the year.

In western Nebraska, a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 80 remained closed Saturday after a tractor-trailer slammed into an overpass support Friday night, sending the bridge crashing down onto the truck and killing the driver, 47-year-old Douglas W. Lohmeyer of Blue Springs, Neb.

Gov. Mike Johanns said crews would work around-the-clock to remove the wreckage. Crews began removing the overpass Saturday, and authorities estimate that the interstate will reopen Monday, Johanns said.

Interstate 80 runs from coast to coast and is the nation's busiest highway.

A 17-mile stretch of Interstate 68 in northwestern Maryland reopened Saturday after crews cleared away nearly 90 vehicles from a string of pileups that killed two people and injured dozens more on a fog-shrouded mountain ridge.

Nearly 30 million people are expected on the nation's roads this weekend, according to AAA. The auto club's prediction was not affected by the government's decision to raise the terrorism alert to "high" Tuesday, though travel industry officials have said terrorism concerns have made driving vacations more popular than flying.

Maryland State Police Maj. Vernon Herron said the accidents on I-68 started when a truck hit a van and the van overturned in the westbound lanes, starting a chain reaction. Someone in the eastbound lanes apparently slowed down to look and was struck, beginning another pileup, Herron said.

One of the people killed on I-68 was Regina Daudet, 66, of Centreville, Va., a passenger in a car; the other, Jason Howell, 26, of Millersburg, Ohio, was killed after leaving his vehicle and jumping a guardrail, state police said.

At least 60 other people were injured, including one hospitalized in critical condition Saturday.

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