A Maryland State Trooper responding to a crash along the Capital Beltway on Thursday afternoon was struck while he was in his patrol car by another vehicle, causing the trooper to be trapped inside it.
The accident happened around 2 p.m. on the outer loop of Interstate 95/495 north of Route 450, where Trooper Ezra Ganeshananda's cruiser was parked on the shoulder investigating a crash.
Investigators said this all started while the trooper was seated in his cruiser parked behind a damaged vehicle and a tow truck preparing to move the car. Police said a 60-year-old man driving a Mercedes Benz C300 vehicle had struck three other vehicles and was driving for at least a mile on the left shoulder of I-95/495 before traveling across all four lanes to the right shoulder where he struck the back of the trooper's cruiser.
Police said an incoming tow truck then hit the Mercedes, causing it to spin and crash into the trooper's driver's side door, trapping Trooper Ganeshananda inside.
Another tow truck driver, Tom Herrera, followed the Mercedes vehicle after seeing it drive erratically and hitting other vehicles on the highway. He stopped at the scene of the crash and used his truck to pull the crashed Mercedes away from the trooper's cruiser to help the fire department extricate the trooper.
"When he struck the police officer, I didn't know [the trooper] was in there," said Herrera. "So when everybody was around the police officer, there was another guy who was trying to help me out. I run to the state trooper, go to the other side to the passenger side door and I told him, 'Officer, are you okay? Is everything okay?' He didn't respond to it, so I got on the radio and I was like, 'Trooper down on 495.'
"The first thing I did is grab the J-Hook, an extended chain, ... I just grabbed that because the car was not driveable. Everything was messed up on the Mercedes, so the only way to move that was dragging it with the tow truck, and that's what I did."
Trooper Ganeshananda was flown to University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center for treatment where he is in critical condition. Police said he is assigned to road patrol at the College Park barracks and has been with the department for 15 months.
The driver of the striking vehicle has been identified by police as Prasad Yadavalli of Galloway Township, New Jersey. He was transported by ambulance to Prince George's Hospital. His condition is unknown at this time. Charges are pending against the driver.
No one else was injured in the crashes, police said.
The northbound lanes of I-95/495 were closed to traffic after the crash causing delays, but state highway officials said all lanes were reopened at 6:15 p.m.