Family members warned Ed Thomas not to go out on New Year's Eve, especially with the extra uncertainty of millennial celebrations--too many crazy revelers, too much potential danger.
But the 35-year-old Gaithersburg man, determined to attend a service at his church in Baltimore, went anyway. He never made it home.
Thomas and his 7-year-old daughter, Olivia Thomas, were killed early yesterday when their car, disabled on the shoulder of Interstate 95, was struck by a car driven by a man who police said was drunk.
The father and daughter were two of five fatalities that occurred on Maryland roads over the New Year's Eve night. Those five deaths were described by police as alcohol-related or probably alcohol-related.
In other fatal crashes over the holiday weekend, two people were killed Friday night in James City County, Va., and one was killed yesterday in Fairfax County. [Story on Page C3.] In the District, police said a driver died after his car struck a utility pole early yesterday.
Law enforcement officers across the region were out looking for impaired drivers. In Maryland, state troopers arrested 59 suspected drunk drivers and charged eight people with drug violations on New Year's Eve and yesterday morning, according to Pete Piringer, of the Maryland State Police public affairs office.
Drunken-driving arrest figures have not been totaled for Virginia and the District, police officials there said. But Fairfax County police said they stopped almost 2,000 drivers at two checkpoints and arrested two motorists on charges of driving while intoxicated.
In Maryland, Ed Thomas was going south on I-95 and had just passed the Interstate 895 exit when his car "began to act up," said his brother, Brian Thomas, who lives in Howard County and spoke to Ed Thomas on his cell phone shortly before the accident.
"I told him to call AAA and get towed and have them bring him and Olivia to my house," Brian Thomas said.
According to state police, Ed Thomas pulled off to the shoulder, and at 2:16 a.m.--moments before a tow truck arrived--his 1988 BMW was struck from behind by a 1999 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
Sirron Lamar Farmer, 25, of Queens Village, N.Y., was arrested and charged with manslaughter by motor vehicle, driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated. He was being treated for minor injuries at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore yesterday.
When Brian Thomas didn't hear from his brother, he went out to look for him and came upon the accident scene, he said. Thomas said he felt that a state trooper who stopped to talk to his brother shortly before the accident should not have left the scene.
"He should have stayed, set up some flares," Thomas said. According to Trooper Clifford Hughes, a state police spokesman, the trooper did not need to stay because Thomas's car was well off the road and a tow truck was on the way.
Ed Thomas was a manager of information technology systems for Bell Atlantic in Silver Spring. Brian Thomas said that his brother also had his own brokerage business, which he planned to expand, and that he was on the verge of buying a new house and moving out of his town house.
Ed Thomas, part of a family of five brothers and two sisters, was born in Trinidad and grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. He earned a degree in computer science engineering from the University of Florida, his brother said.
Olivia, who lived in North Carolina with her mother, was visiting her father for the holidays, Brian Thomas said. "He relished those visits. She was a beautiful child."
An earlier accident in Cecil County claimed three lives.
Daniel Dacosta, 34, of Boulder, Colo., and Maura Carberr, 37, of Newark, Del., were killed when the 1994 Dodge Intrepid they were in was struck head-on by another car.
Dacosta and Carberr had been heading east on Route 273, near Gallaher Road, when a 1994 Honda Civic driven by Jeremy S. Bard ran into them. Bard had been westbound and had crossed a double yellow line as he tried to pass another car in front of him, according to Trooper David Miranda, of the Maryland State Police.
Alcohol was probably a factor in the accident, said Miranda, who noted that several beer bottles were found in Bard's car. Bard, 22, of Newark, Del., was also killed in the accident.
CAPTION: Ed Thomas, of Gaithersburg, and his daughter, Olivia, 7, were killed by a drunk driver on I-95, police said.