Two teenage burglary suspects from the District who were fleeing a police officer in Charles County crashed their stolen van head-on into another car yesterday morning, killing one of the suspects and the driver of the car, authorities said.
The deaths are the latest in a string of fatal accidents in the Washington area involving juvenile car thieves behind the wheel. Two people have been killed in the past month by juveniles driving stolen vehicles. A third person, a 78-year-old woman, died when she was struck by a 16-year-old driving recklessly and without a permit.
Two people died in 2003 in the District in similar crashes.
The most recent incident began about 9:30 a.m., when six teenagers -- all 14 to 16 years old -- from the District fled in two stolen vans from a home in Pomfret after an attempted burglary, police said. A state trooper spotted one of the vans and followed it east on Hawthorne Road, shouting over the public address system for the driver to pull over.
The driver swerved across the center line while heading up a steep curve on the tree-lined road and crashed into a Mercury Mountaineer driven by Cynthia L. Chester of Indian Head, said Maj. Greg Shipley of the Maryland State Police.
Chester, 50, who lived at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Indian Head with her husband, died on the way to the hospital, authorities said. A 16-year-old male, riding in the front passenger seat of the van, was pronounced dead at the scene. His name had not been released last night, pending notification of relatives.
The driver of the van, who was conscious, was flown to Prince George's Hospital Center and is in custody of the Charles County Sheriff's Office. His name was not released because he is a juvenile, authorities said.
Police said two vans -- one of them involved in yesterday's chase -- were seen Tuesday night at the house in the 8000 block of Arthurs Court, in the Camelot subdivision of Pomfret. The suspects attempted to steal an all-terrain vehicle and a dirt bike from the garage, said Capt. Joseph C. Montminy of the sheriff's office. Unable to transport the ATV and the bike, the suspects left them in the yard, along with one of the vans they had stolen in Prince George's County.
A neighbor spotted two vans again at the same house yesterday morning while walking his dog and called the police. The suspects saw the neighbor and fled in the two vans -- a white van, which triggered the fatal accident, and a blue one.
The blue van eventually careered into an embankment and crashed in a nearby yard, deploying its airbags, Montminy said. Uninjured, the four teenagers inside escaped into a wooded area. They then stole a 1997 Toyota from Bumpy Oak Road, authorities said. State police spotted the Toyota shortly after noon at Route 5 and Woodyard Road in Prince George's.
When the driver refused to stop, the police dropped metal spikes, called "stop sticks," in front of the car to pop the tires. Even after two of the tires deflated, the car continued for seven miles until it crashed on Naylor Road near the Suitland Parkway in Southeast Washington, authorities said.
After the crash, two of the suspects were apprehended and two escaped on foot, authorities said.
Criminal charges in one or more burglaries are pending while the Charles County state's attorneys office reviews the evidence, authorities said.
Montminy said the Charles incident would have been a routine attempted burglary but for the crashes.
"A burglary where bad guys end up killing somebody is definitely unusual," Montminy said. "That two people died over a piece of property is just ridiculous."
In another recent incident, a 14-year-old was charged as a juvenile with second-degree murder in the June 19 death of Marx Aristide, 37, a well-known Haitian activist. The driver slammed the stolen car into Aristide as he stood at 14th Street and Florida Avenue NW.
Less than two weeks later, another youth, Andrew Lofty, 16, was charged as an adult with second-degree murder in the death of Terry Andrew Weaver, 21. Weaver was killed while riding a moped July 2 when a stolen van hit him.
And in another fatal accident, early Tuesday morning, a 37-year-old District music teacher was killed when his car was struck by a 23-year-old driver speeding from police in Northwest Washington.
Emergency legislation that would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences on serial car thieves did not pass the D.C. Council on Tuesday. Another bill, to create a mandatory minimum sentence for juvenile car thieves, was removed from discussion.
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) announced plans yesterday for a town hall meeting on the issue Monday night at Zion Baptist Church, 1234 Kenilworth Ave. NE.
Tony Bullock, a spokesman for the mayor, said the meeting is meant to provide an opportunity for residents to speak and for the city to disclose steps that will be taken to combat the problem.
Residents of the Benning Terrace area of Southeast Washington are having a rally tomorrow night to push for action against juvenile car thieves and joy riders.
Staff writers Theola Labbe and Dakarai I. Aarons contributed to this report.