Snow and speed proved to be a deadly combination in Howard County on Tuesday. A driver was killed this morning after losing control of his car on Route 97, just north of New Hampshire Avenue near Brookeville.
This accident happened around the Montgomery County and Howard County line. Maryland State Highway road crews had plowed the road, but the shoulder was piled with several inches of snow.
"We think he veered onto the shoulder where there was snow and ice," said Sherry Llewellyn with Howard County police.
Police say 26-year-old Zeyu Zhang was driving an Acura RSX south on Route 97, going into a curve crossing the Patuxent River. Police say it appears Zhang was going too fast, and when the car hit the snow, he lost control. That "caused him to slide back into the roadway and be struck by a pickup truck," Llewellyn said.
The car and pickup truck hauling a plow ran off the road and up an embankment.
Zhang was pronounced dead on the scene.
The truck's driver, 17-year-old Philip Saiz, of Glenwood, and his two passengers, 18-year-old Hayden Dice of Mt. Airy and 17-year-old Casey Reimer of Glenwood, were not seriously hurt. They were transported to Montgomery General Hospital and treated for minor injuries.
Police say the truck was a private plow and was not involved in clearing roads. The speed limit on this stretch is 50 miles per hour. The road conditions appeared good at the time, with no snow or ice on the main roadway, but with the shoulders uncleared, a mistake of just a few inches was all it took.
"We don't think that weather was a factor in the travel portion of the roadway," said Llewellyn. "Even in this situation, the driver was coming around a curve that had been cleared, but because he veered into the shoulder, that's where the danger really was for him. Perhaps had there not been any snow or ice on the shoulder, it might have turned out differently."
While the weather played a part, investigators believe that speed was the main factor in the deadly accident.
The investigation shut down Route 97 for about three hours during the morning, but it was reopened shortly after noon.