Beltway Crash
Correction to This Article
A March 3 Metro article about an accident the previous day on Interstate 270 incorrectly indicated that an injured motorist, Gloria Weigand of Centreville, was treated at Suburban Hospital on the day of the crash and released. Weigand was not released from the hospital until Monday.

Fatal Accident Snarls Morning Traffic

Rescue Workers Assess Tractor-Trailer Accident
Rescue crews on southbound I-270 where debris from a tractor trailer fell from an overpass, killing one driver and seriously injuring three other people. (Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 3, 2006

A tractor-trailer carrying wooden stockade fences flipped on the Capital Beltway during yesterday morning's rush hour, raining debris onto Interstate 270 below and killing a Marriott International executive on his way to work.

Three other motorists were seriously injured in the 8:45 a.m. accident. The truck driver was not injured.

The accident snarled traffic as far north as Rockville, east to Silver Spring and south into Virginia, and the backups continued into the late afternoon on the Capital Beltway and I-270. Police closed lanes on both highways several times during the day.

Some motorists sat for hours in one of the region's busiest commuter corridors as cleanup crews removed damaged vehicles and wood and police investigated the fatal.

"Debris was flying everywhere," said Montgomery fire and rescue spokesman Pete Piringer. "It was raining down on 270, and cars were swerving to avoid it."

Dead at the scene was District resident Douglas M. Ely, 47, a vice president and assistant general counsel at Marriott International's headquarters. Ely was driving north on I-270 to his office, near Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda, when sections of fencing cascaded from the Interstate 495 overpass onto his car, which was then hit in the rear by another car.

Roger Conner a Marriott spokesman, said Ely joined the company in 1996 and was promoted in 1999 to the position he held at his death.

Ely, who was married with two children, was a graduate of Princeton and of Columbia University's law school. He was a great-grandson of former chief justice Harlan Fiske Stone, who led the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1940s.

Witnesses told rescuers it appeared that the load of prefabricated fence sections shifted as the tractor-trailer rounded a tight curve on southbound lanes of the Beltway, leaving the driver, Francois Veilleux, 23, of Quebec, unable to regain control. The truck flipped onto its roof, scattering wood onto the Beltway. Huge chunks of wood quickly slid over the guardrail and onto cars heading north and south on I-270 below.

Veilleux was charged with negligent driving and two other violations, offenses punishable with fines. Neither the rainy weather nor speed appeared to be factors in the incident, said Maryland State Police Sgt. Russell Newell. The cause is under investigation.

Witnesses described a routine morning commute suddenly turning terrifying as chunks of wood began falling on them as they snaked through traffic in a drizzle.

The three injured people were freed from their cars by rescuers using heavy equipment to cut through the metal. Police could identify only one, Gloria Weigand of Centreville, who was driving the car that struck Ely's vehicle. Weigand was treated at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda and released.

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