Three People Are Killed In Rush-Hour Collision

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 29, 2007

Scott Stegner and his teenage son, Sean, had dropped off the boy's grandmother at her home in Pennsylvania and were driving back to Fairfax County on Route 15 in Maryland when, according to police, a pair of headlights barreled toward them.

The Stegners died Thursday in a head-on collision with a Cadillac Escalade whose driver had lost control of her vehicle in the afternoon rush, police said. Sean's mother, a United Airlines flight attendant who was on her way to Japan at the time of the crash, arrived home just after 8 p.m. yesterday to join her three surviving children.

Accident investigators focused on the Escalade and its driver, Jennifer M. Adel Carter, 27, who was also killed. Moments before the 5:30 p.m. crash, a motorist alerted police that a Cadillac sport-utility vehicle was passing vehicles on the shoulder of the two-lane highway in rural Frederick County, Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said.

Carter, who lived in the Frederick community of Point of Rocks, was driving north when her SUV struck the rear of a Honda Element driven by 38-year-old Kevin Strauss of Columbia, according to police and Strauss.

"I saw the headlights of this big car square in my rearview mirror," said Strauss, who was not hurt. "And I don't remember seeing any signal lights or things like that. I was going 60, and I think the Cadillac came up at, like, 100."

The impact caused Carter's Escalade to veer into the southbound lane, where it struck the Chrysler minivan that carried Stegner, 49, and his 14-year-old son, police said.

Strauss said he regained control of his vehicle, parked on the shoulder and ran back to the Escalade, which was "just completely smashed in," he said. He felt for a pulse on Carter's body and could not find one. All three motorists were dead when rescue workers arrived, police said. The wreck closed Route 15 for about five hours.

Police said that they had not determined Carter's speed and that there was no immediate sign that alcohol was a factor in the crash. Carter was not wearing a seat belt.

Carter lived a few miles south of the accident site. Her mother, Helen, said she was too distraught to discuss the matter.

"I just lost my daughter out on Route 15," she said. "I don't want to talk right now."

Jennifer Carter had been charged in recent years with multiple traffic offenses, including driving while intoxicated, according to court records.

In 2004, she pleaded guilty to driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol in two separate cases in Frederick. The following year, she pleaded guilty to the more serious charge of driving while impaired by alcohol and driving on a suspended license.

This year, she was charged with first-degree escape, a charge typically filed when someone flees police custody or a corrections facility. Details of that case, which was set to go to trial in April, could not be learned yesterday.

Friends of the Stegner family filed in and out of the powder-blue family home on a stately cul-de-sac in Clifton yesterday to deliver food and hugs.

Scott Stegner was a senior program manager at Lockheed Martin in Oakton, said Dave Weiss, a family friend. His wife, Yumiko, works United's Dulles-Tokyo route and had left Dulles International Airport hours before her husband and son were killed. She raced home after the crash to rejoin daughters Christina, 23, a 2007 graduate of the University of Virginia; Laura, 21, a senior at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.; and Melissa, 12, who had attended nearby Liberty Middle School with her brother.

Staff writer Ernesto Londo┬┐o and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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