MARYLAND

Toddler Falls 60 Feet at Laurel Racetrack

A 16-month-old boy fell about 60 feet from the press box of the Laurel Park racetrack yesterday afternoon, officials said.

The boy, whose name was not released, was sitting in the press box with his mother when the accident occurred about 3 p.m., said Karin De Francis, co-owner of the racetrack in Anne Arundel County.

"She lost her grip on the child," De Francis said. She declined to give further details.

The boy landed on his back on the concrete, said Battalion Chief John Scholz, of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. He was taken by helicopter to the pediatric intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

The boy's condition was not available late yesterday. Anne Arundel police did not start their investigation until 8:30 p.m., more than five hours after the accident.

Officer Tom O'Connor said dispatchers thought that the incident involved a sick or injured person and did not notify detectives. Police usually investigate if an accident occurs in a public place or involves a child. "We're going to look into the reasons for the delay," he said. "There was some miscommunication."

Race spectator Dave Moersen, 46, of Gaithersburg, said he was upset that the horse races continued despite the accident. "All the security guards, everybody's over there, and while they're working on him, the race goes on," he said. "It was pathetic."

State Urges Continued Caution on Creek

Maryland officials continued yesterday to urge boaters, swimmers and fishermen to use caution on a 2 1/2-mile stretch of Back Creek in Somerset County, between Raccoon Point and the Millard Long Road bridge, after three people exhibited symptoms associated with exposure to the toxic microbe Pfiesteria piscicida.

Two summers ago, pfiesteria sickened several people, killed thousands of fish and led officials to close several waterways leading to the Chesapeake Bay. Yesterday, state biologists found only healthy fish and took additional water samples for testing.

Still, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) said the three people who have suffered flu-like symptoms and skin rashes are a "red flag" that officials should be vigilant. Two of the people with symptoms were state investigators taking water samples after the complaints of the first person, said Robert Venezia, of the state health department.

Judge Appointed to State's Highest Court

Glenn T. Harrell, a member of the Court of Special Appeals since 1991, has been appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.

Harrell will fill a vacancy created by the retirement this week of Judge Howard S. Chasanow.

Before becoming a judge, Harrell, 54, had been in private law practice in Prince George's County and had been a hearing examiner for the state Board of Education and a lawyer with the Prince George's county attorney's office.

During his term on the Court of Special Appeals, the state's second-highest court, he wrote about 900 opinions.

VIRGINIA

Crash Injures Marine Copter Unit Member

A member of the elite Marine Corps helicopter unit that ferries President Clinton, Vice President Gore and other Washington dignitaries was critically injured last night in a single-car accident near his home in Stafford County, Virginia State Police said.

Lt. Col. Mark Cwick, 41, was on life support at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg last night. State police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said Cwick was driving home from work on Route 3 westbound, just east of Route 603, when he lost control of his 1990 Mazda Miata convertible about 6 p.m.

"He was in the right lane when a vehicle moved into his path," Caldwell said. "He ran off the road, overturned, hit an embankment and several trees. He was in a convertible and bystanders pulled down the top and pulled him out."

Officials identified Cwick as a member of HMX-1, the Marine helicopter squadron charged with carrying high-ranking government officials. The distinctive green Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King helicopters are known as Marine One when the president is aboard.

Cwick's wife and a contingent of Marines were standing vigil at the hospital last night, awaiting word on his condition, officials said.

Man Found Dead on Amtrak Auto Train

A man was found dead in his passenger compartment on Amtrak's Auto Train yesterday morning, leading to a three-hour delay in Quantico as state and local police investigated and arranged for removal of the body. Police are awaiting autopsy results to determine a cause of death and did not name the man, pending notification of next of kin.

The train left Sanford, Fla., on Wednesday at 2:45 p.m., traveled through the night and was on its way to Lorton, its final destination, when the body was discovered, said Lucy Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police. The train made an unscheduled stop at Quantico at 9:40 a.m., 20 minutes from its last stop, while police investigated the death.

THE DISTRICT

July Deaths Increase; Official Cites Heat

The D.C. medical examiner's office recorded a 35 percent increase in the number of deaths it investigated in July over the previous year, and said the hot weather is likely to blame in part for the increase.

Chief Medical Examiner Jonathan L. Arden said in an interview that his office reviewed 173 deaths in July, up from 128 in July 1998. "I have not recognized any other type of death, or trend, that explains the increase" other than this summer's heat, Arden said. "Our homicide numbers are still declining."

Arden said it is difficult to break down which deaths are heat-related because heat is often a contributing factor to official causes of death, such as heart disease.

The average temperature recorded at Reagan National Airport in July was 82.9 degrees, making it the second-warmest July on record, said Michelle K. Margraf, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. The record, set in July 1993, was 83.1 degrees.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "This is Mayor Williams's picnic. Why should we solicit [donations for it] from our constituents? When you give something, you either give it or you don't." -- Glenda Neamo, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Southeast Washington's Ward 8, complaining that District Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) organized picnics for his volunteers across the city and then asked them to raise much of the money to pay for them.