Anne Arundel County police said they are consulting with the state’s attorney’s office as they investigate the multi-car collision Tuesday that killed three people, including two children.
Police said driver error was probably a factor in the crash, which took place on Route 3 south near Route 32. A truck slammed into a Toyota Camry, causing a chain reaction that ultimately involved eight vehicles.
Those who died were all from Warsaw, Va., and were riding in the back seat of the Toyota, police said. Police identified them as Bethany Dawn Dempsey, 37; her 14-year-old daughter, Lauren White; and Abigail Randi Cullen, the 7-year-old daughter of driver Michael Thomas Cullen II.
Cullen, 37, Dempsey’s boyfriend, was in critical condition Wednesday evening at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. His 15-year-old son, also named Michael, was listed in fair condition.
The flat-bed, commercial delivery truck was driven by Jason Nathaniel Pagayoya, 36, of Waldorf, police said.
Route 3 was closed for hours Tuesday evening as rescue personnel, police and investigators worked at the site. Lt. Glenn Shanahan, an Anne Arundel police spokesman, described the scene as “horrific.”
“It was one of the worst I’d ever seen — not just the wreckage, but with the loss of life,” he said Wednesday. “Three members of the same family in the same car. It’s just horrible.”
The King George County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia confirmed that Bethany Dempsey and Lauren White are the daughter and granddaughter of Sheriff Stephen Dempsey. The sheriff had no comment on the incident Wednesday, according to an employee who declined to give her name.
A prayer vigil was scheduled Wednesday evening at Rappahannock Church of Christ in Warsaw, where Michael Cullen and Bethany Dempsey were members, according to Associate Minister Jim Ward.
“It’s been devastating,” Ward said, describing Dempsey and Cullen as “a big part of our church family.”
In all, eight vehicles and 14 people were involved in the incident. Police said they think that Pagayoya was going about 50 mph — within the posted limit — but that he failed to slow down with other traffic approaching a backup at a traffic signal at Route 175.
Police said alcohol and drugs did not appear to be factors, and investigators were consulting with the state’s attorney’s office as the investigation continued.
All of the Toyota’s passengers were wearing seat belts, police said.
The Toyota was pushed into other cars, causing a domino effect. Five people had minor injuries and were treated and released from a hospital.