Three people killed a week ago along Route 301 near Brandywine have been identified as authorities continue to investigate the fiery crash.

Killed were Jesse Herbert Mitchell Jr., 41, of the 5900 block of Rockhold Dr., Deale; Ernest Woody, 66, of the 10800 block of Poukey Way, Upper Marlboro; and Hichem Drif, 24, of the 11200 block of East Barn Swallow Pl., Waldorf, Maryland State Police said.

The chain of events that ended in the three fatalities began when a stalled Ford Escort, its hazard lights blinking, was abandoned in the left lane of northbound traffic by a woman who walked to a nearby gas station for help, authorities said.

That woman's name is not being released because she was not involved in the crash, said Cpl. Rob Moroney.

"She made every effort she could to get help," Moroney said. After the investigation is complete, it will be up to the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office to decide whether or not to press charges, he said.

Just before 5 a.m. last Thursday, a taxicab, driven by Margaret B. Eyombo, 53, of Waldorf, came up behind the Escort, swerved left across the grass median strip and crashed into a southbound 1996 Peterbilt dump truck driven by Woody, authorities said.

Woody's dump truck careered across the median, colliding with a 2000 GMC catering truck, driven by Drif, and a 1989 Buick sedan, driven by Mitchell.

James Long, 54, of Hughesville, then crashed into the catering truck as it spun around into the center lane. Propane tanks on Drif's catering truck burst into flames, then two saddle tanks of diesel fuel on Woody's dump truck exploded.

Mitchell, Woody and Drif died at the scene, authorities said.

Long and Eyombo were flown by helicopter to the Prince George's Hospital Center with non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.

Motorists and authorities said the accident was indicative of the dangers along the heavily traveled road. In the past decade, the number of vehicles passing by the site where the crash occurred has increased 33 percent to about 80,000 vehicles a day, state transportation officials said. In the first nine months of last year, 691 traffic accidents were reported along the portions of Route 301 in Charles and Prince George's counties, police said.

The Maryland State Highway Administration said that from 2001 to last year, driver inattention was, by far, the most common reason for vehicle crashes in Charles County.

"When someone is driving, they are responsible for what is ahead of them," Moroney said.