What appeared at first to be a tragic traffic mishap between two competing tow truck operators on New Year's Day was a miscalulated attempt by one driver to scare another that ended in the man's death, Maryland State Police said yesterday.

Kim Leonard Holmes, 26, a driver for Raye's Towing in Silver Spring, was killed when he was struck by a tow truck driven by Russell Paul Greenslade, 24, an employe of Crabtree Services in Seabrook.

After reconstructing the accident and interviewing Greenslade as well as several witnesses, state police arrested Greenslade yesterday and charged him with manslaughter.

The accident occurred on the eastbound lane of Rte. 50 near Church Road in Mitchellville. Holmes, who lived at 178 Uhland Ter. NE in the District, had backed up to a disabled van to tow it away.

Holmes had locked the van to the tow truck on the shoulder and was standing beside the two vehicles next to the roadway when Greenslade approached driving his own truck at a high rate of speed, police said.

Police said Greenslade spotted Holmes and "swerved to the right toward the parked tow truck in an attempt to scare" Holmes. Police said Greenslade, once on the shoulder, "was unable to return to the roadway."

Greenslade first hit the tow truck, then Holmes, then the van, before careering another 173 feet into a fence. Holmes' truck and the van both were damaged extensively. Police said Holmes was thrown more than 100 feet.

Greenslade, who lives in the 9700 block of 51st place in College Park, appeared before a District Court commissioner yesterday and was subsequently released on personal recognizance. Manslaughter is defined as a wrongful killing without malice or premeditation.