18 vehicles involved in Maryland I-270 crash; multiple serious injuries reported

A crash Monday, March 19, 2018, involving more than 20 vehicles on Interstate 270 in Montgomery County, Md., has been declared a mass casualty incident, according to authorities. (Montgomery County Fire Department)

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WJLA) — Just a few hours after a massive chain-reaction crash on I-270, Blair Kramer was shaking his head, looking at his now totaled Buick.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to stop,” he said. “It seemed like it went for 10 to 15 seconds, just ‘bang, bang, boom’. It was just crazy.”

Kramer, a D.C. firefighter, was driving into work just before 5:30 Monday morning, when he got caught in the middle of a major pileup near the Middlebrook Road exit.

His car was one of 18 cars, trucks, and SUVs, badly damaged in the crash.

“I got slammed into the rear and It was just a chain reaction, vehicles just hitting each other,” he recalled. “I turned around and I saw the eighteen wheeler hit the car that was directly behind me and shoved her into me.”

In moments, the busy interstate, packed with cars, became a path of motorized destruction.

Now, Maryland State Police investigators are searching for an unmarked white tractor-trailer that suddenly swerved into the southbound right-hand lane, right into the path of another car.

“Of course, that vehicle may have slammed on their brakes and caused a chain reaction, with eighteen vehicles in total,” said Elena Russo, a state police spokesperson.

Authorities say the tractor-trailer sped off.

But two other big rigs were in the pileup; one of them was a flatbed, carrying bundled slabs of slate; the impact ejecting them on the road, forcing drivers to swerve around them.

Kramer says the sound of car after car, slamming into each other, was deafening.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to stop,” he said. “But thank God, everybody pulled through, and no serious injuries.”

Emergency responders treated numerous people at the scene, described by authorities as a mass casualty incident.

Four people were eventually transported to area hospitals.

None of the injuries are considered life-threatening, officials say.

Kramer and others say they can’t believe no one was killed.

“Looking at these pictures it looks like an incredibly serious crash,” Russo said. “We’re so fortunate that four people were transported with only minor injuries.”

Jesus Pineda, with Airpark Towing, was the first tow driver to reach the wreckage and the chaos that followed.

“I saw the cars that were trashed,” he says. “I saw a lady was crying, saw all these police. It was pretty bad, I never saw something like that before.”

Pineda, only six months on the job, went to work, straightening out cars that were scattered all over the highway, blocking the southbound side completely.

“It was a mess. All the lanes were blocked,” he said.

Pineda says there were at least eight ambulances responding to the crash.

Kramer, meanwhile, had crawled out a window and called his wife Barbara to tell her he was safe.

“What did the phone call say?” she was asked.

“He said ‘I've been in an accident, and I’m okay,’” Mrs. Kramer said quietly, her eyes tearing up. “He just said I've been in an accident, the car’s totaled.”

Indeed it was.

The front and back of the Kramers' Buick was smashed in.

The rear window, splintered.

Next to the ruined car sat a loaf of bread and several cans of tuna; inside the trunk, a carton of broken eggs: a breakfast snack Kramer was bringing for his fellow firefighters.

In the backseat, among glass shards, lay his firefighter's union sticker for the back window, intact and undamaged.

Kramer himself walked away from the wreck without a scratch.

“I'll never say a bad thing about a Buick, ever,” he smiled. “Saved my butt.”

“It was all over the news this morning,” Barbara Kramer said. “I’m glad he’s alive. That’s all I can say.”

The Kramers say more than anything, they are thankful.

Insurance will cover the loss of the car.

They hope police will catch the tractor-truck driver, who remains at large.

“Scary, very scary,” Barbara says. “I just hope. I don’t know if they’ll ever catch the guy who did it, who started it.”

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