Frostburg, MD Runaway Truck Accident, Feb 1981


Frostburg, Md. (AP) -- An out of control lumber truck Wednesday struck a dozen cars, plowed into a crowded restaurant and exploded, killing two persons -- including the wife of a local judge who witnessed the accident, police said.
Police late Wednesday night combed the rubble of the restaurant in search of the bodies of three more people feared dead.
The fire, which shot flames highinto the air, raged out of control for almost three hours in the center of this Western Maryland college town.
"It was a runaway, it was hitting cars on both sides of the street then the tractor itself went into the building and the trailer flipped over, " said Wayne Schrock, a gasoline station attendant who witnessed the accident.
"It was literally throwing cars all over the street," he added.
State police said the body of one victim was found in the mangled wreckage of a car the truck had pushed into Snoop's Restaurant in the center of town, said Robert Yinger, a Maryland state police lieutenant.
Yunger said the body, which was not immediately identified, was trapped in the car.
State police communications officer Ronald Hare in nearby Cumberland, identified the victims as:
CHARLES H. MITTER, 61, of Luke, Maryland.
His son-in-law, the REV. GARY E. MARSH, 31, pastor of the Frostburg Church of the Brethren.
RUTH BOWEN, 50, wife of District Court Judge Miller Bowen.
The truck's driver, ROBERT KEYSER, 37, was flown to the Baltimore City Hospital Burn Center, where his condition was described as very critical. Nursing Supervisor Faye Hagerman said KEYSER, of Angola, Ind., was an employee of Direct Transit of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Witnesses said KEYSER was apparently thrown from the truck and was found lying on the street several yards from the restaurant.
MRS. BOWEN was driving a car outside the bar when it was struck by the truck, witnesses reported. "One car landed right here in front of my pumps, it was completely mangled and the woman inside was dead," Schrock said.
Ten crash victims were taken to Frostburg Community Hospital, according to D. Duane Oswald, hospital administrator. He said one was in critical condition and two were in serious condition.
"The whole thing was engulfed in flames in minutes. It was terrible," said Al Via, owner of Al's Motel and Restaurant across from the crash site.
Via, who was nearby playing pinochle at the Elks Club with Mrs. Bowen's husband said he "heard a thump. We looked out the window and there it was -- bam."
Via said he was standing beside Bowen and quoted him as saying, "Oh my God, that's my wife's car."
"Then he broke down," Via said.
Alleghany County Deputy James F. Christopher said the accident occurred outside the restaurant on U.S. Route 40 about 4:30 p.m.
Frostburg Police Sgt. James Buckalew said the truck flipped over and exploded, igniting the restaurant in the center of this community.
Authorities said the driver apparently lost his brakes while coming down a steep section of Main Street. The truck jackknifed and the cab of the rig plowed through the front of the restaurant, a college hangout for students at Frostburg State College.

Frederick News-Post Maryland 1981-02-19


There were three deaths.

There were three deaths.

The truck lost its brakes as

The truck lost its brakes as it came down Big Savage Mtn. I was almost hit by the truck as I was crossing Rt. 40 by the filteration plant on my bike. I was interviewed by the investigators.


Stoop's was the name of the Restaurant not Snoops. I was there shortly after the accident and it was a terrible scene. I too saw Mrs. Bowen in her car.

I was there a few minutes

I was there a few minutes after the crash. I saw Mrs. Bowens car with her inside. No one really knew there was a car inside the building. So thankful there were only 2 deaths in this it could have been so much worse.