THE DISTRICT

Fumes Force Evacuation at Gallery of Art

The West Building of the National Gallery of Art was evacuated and closed yesterday when several workers and some visiting schoolchildren complained of becoming sick after inhaling fumes from a toxic floor sealant, officials said.

The incident occurred about 12:45 p.m. as workers renovating the building applied the sealant and vapors got into the museum's air system, fire officials said. Three security guards and one firefighter were taken to George Washington University Hospital after complaining of eye irritation or nausea, fire officials said.

About 3 p.m., six students visiting the Gallery as part of a school field trip from Chambersburg, Pa., also complained of feeling sick. Firefighters escorted the school's bus load of students to George Washington for observation, fire officials said.

The West Building was being ventilated yesterday evening and is scheduled to reopen to the public at its usual time of 10 a.m. today, gallery officials said.

Howard Trustees Chairman Steps Down

The chairman of Howard University's Board of Trustees has resigned from the board, university officials said yesterday.

Frank Savage, a prominent financier and chief executive of Savage Holdings LLC, was on Howard's board for 10 years, serving as chairman for the past seven and overseeing the school's ongoing $250 million fundraising campaign.

Last week, Savage announced his resignation from the board of Qualcomm Inc., a wireless technology company based in California, where shareholders had pushed to oust him because of his role on the board of Enron, the failed energy trading company.

Mental Hospital Suspends Admissions

St. Elizabeths Hospital, a 550-bed public psychiatric hospital, has stopped accepting new patients until repairs can be made to a high-voltage feeder that exploded Monday and stopped transmitting electricity to the campus.

There is enough electricity to refrigerate medicine and food, but without any air conditioning, the D.C. Department of Mental Health did not want to bring more patients into the hospital, said agency spokeswoman Linda P. Grant. The agency brought in fans and water for current patients and is working with private hospitals on referring patients. The hospital will remain closed to new patients until next Tuesday, Grant said.

Motorcyclist Dies After Hitting Car in NE

A Maryland man died Wednesday after crashing his motorcycle in Northeast Washington, D.C. police said yesterday.

Wesley Thompson Jr., 28, of the 7800 block of Castle Rock Drive in Clinton was driving his Kawasaki Ninja north on 48th Street at a high speed about 6 p.m. when he hit a car traveling east on Jay Street, police said.

Thompson, who was not wearing a helmet, was thrown from the motorcycle and slammed into a parked car. He died at the scene.

MARYLAND

Bay Bridge Crash Injures Two, Halts Traffic

Two people were seriously injured in a three-car accident on the Bay Bridge yesterday that shut down eastbound traffic for more than 21/2 hours and created a 10-mile backup, authorities said.

A Ford Expedition smashed into the rear of an ambulance just before 1 p.m., said Cpl. Gregory Prioleau, a Maryland Transportation Authority police spokesman. The ambulance then hit a 2001 Honda Accord.

A 39-year-old woman riding in the ambulance's front passenger seat and a 21-year-old woman in the Expedition were flown to Baltimore Shock Trauma Center, where they were in stable condition last night, Prioleau said.

Pr. George's Budget Cuts Police Overtime

Despite objections from the police union, the Prince George's County Council yesterday unanimously approved a $1.9 billion budget for 2005 that slashes overtime for public safety by $3.5 million.

Council Chairman Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills) said the decision to reduce overtime pay will not affect services. If additional money is needed for overtime, he said, the council can approve supplemental appropriations.

The budget does include money to hire 150 police officers.

Council member Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Bowie) said the council must look at why the county repeatedly spends more than it allocates for public safety overtime. The county budgeted about $10 million for overtime for public safety in fiscal 2004. It spent $25.1 million, Peters said.

VIRGINIA

Potomac Fisherman Catches Snakehead

A northern snakehead was caught yesterday by a commercial fisherman in Pohick Bay, making it the fourth snakehead found in an eight-mile stretch of the Potomac River in the past month.

Since the first snakehead was found in the Potomac in early May, environmental authorities have warned that the fish could disrupt the river's ecosystem and displace native fish.

The most recent catch was a 2-year-old female, 14 inches long and weighing 16 ounces, according to officials at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It was captured by a fisherman using a haul seine, officials said. The day before, Virginia biologists searched the area with an electrofishing boat, but no snakeheads were found.

Now officials in Maryland and Virginia plan to set gill nets and seines next week to try to determine whether there's a breeding population of snakeheads, said John Odenkirk, a fisheries biologist with the department.

U.S. Denies Proposed No Child Changes

The U.S. Department of Education has rejected proposed changes to Virginia's plan for compliance with the No Child Left Behind law, prompting a renewed chorus of complaints about the statute from state educators. The law, which was blasted in a resolution passed by the General Assembly this year, requires that every child pass standardized tests in math and reading by 2014. Schools that do not make adequate yearly progress toward the goal for two years in a row face consequences.

Virginia officials asked that school performance take into account the scores of students who retake the state's Standard of Learning exams after failing once. Officials believe it would encourage schools to give struggling students extra resources.

"Your bravery allowed me to live again. Your courage gave me my freedom."

-- Henry Greenbaum, 76, a survivor of Auschwitz, speaking at a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum observance honoring the soldiers who liberated the Nazi death camps. -- Page B7

Compiled from reports by staff writers Amy Argetsinger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Theola Labbe, Joshua Partlow, Ovetta Wiggins, Del Quentin Wilber and Clarence Williams.