Montgomery County police are investigating a car crash early yesterday morning in which the body of a man who was killed lay undiscovered for six hours. Police said the man apparently driving gave the wrong location of the accident and failed to say there was a passenger.

James Charles Duff, 23, of 3805 Wilberta Dr., Olney is believed to have been the driver, according to police spokesman Cpl. Phil Caswell. Caswell said Duff called his parents at 2 a.m. yesterday from an all-night convenience store in Burtonsville to tell them he had been in a car accident.

Six hours later, the body of Hoyt Stephen Wheeland, 22, of 3700 Hayes Manor La., Olney, was found on a grassy wooded embankment near Burtonsville, according to Caswell.

Police picked up Duff at the convenience store and took him to Montgomery General Hospital where he was treated and released, under heavy sedation, to his parents' care, Caswell said. Duff told police that the accident had occurred near Rte. 198 and I-95. Police searched the darkness for a Dodge Colt, the car described by Duff, but found nothing, Caswell said.

At 8 a.m., however, some Burtonsville firefighters driving to work spotted the car about 125 feet off the road in the 3300 block of Spencerville Road, one mile from where Duff had said the accident occurred.

Caswell said Wheeland had died instantly of massive head injuries suffered when the car apparently rolled down an embankment one mile west of Burtonsville. His body was discovered on the ground next to the passenger door of the car.

"By the time we knew anything about anyone else [it] was in the morning when [Duff's] father told us there might have been a passenger," Caswell said yesterday.

Police searched unsuccessfully for the car near Rte. 198 and I-95. "That's a long stretch of road -- that's seven miles," Caswell said. "The point was he [Duff] didn't know where the accident had happened."

Caswell said it has not been determined whether alcohol was involved in the accident. The two men had stopped at a restaurant in Laurel on the drive back from classes they attended together at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, Caswell said.