A multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 270 over the weekend left an off-duty FBI agent and a Maryland state fire official who came to his aid dead—an incident that highlights the dangers of evening highway accident scenes.
Maryland State Troopers identified the men as FBI Supervisory Special Agent Carlos Wolff, 36, and Deputy Chief Maryland State Fire Marshal Sander B. Cohen, 33. The Office of the Fire Marshal is an agency of the Maryland Department of State Police.
“Deputy Chief Cohen had no idea who was inside the vehicle he stopped behind,” Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. William Pallozzi said Saturday. “He just recognized that someone needed help and he never hesitated last night to stop and help someone in need.”
At about 10 p.m. Friday, Cohen reported he was responding to what appeared to be a single-vehicle traffic crash in the fast lane of southbound I-270, north of Gude Drive. He observed a 2002 Acura MDX SUV that was damaged and disabled in the travel portion of the highway.
Cohen requested assistance and blocked the approach to the damaged vehicle with his personal vehicle and activated his emergency flashers, police said. The driver of the damaged vehicle was Wolff.
Cohen and Wolff moved to the shoulder of the fast lane, where they were standing when a southbound Honda Accord swerved and struck both men on the shoulder. Both men were thrown over the jersey wall to the northbound side of highway, where one of them was struck by a northbound Acura ILX.
The cause of the initial crash involving Special Agent Wolff’s vehicle remains under investigation. Evidence indicates that for reasons unknown at this time, the vehicle struck the concrete barrier on the left side of the highway and became disabled in the fast lane.
There is no preliminary indication of alcohol involvement in these crashes. The causes of the initial and subsequent crashes remain under investigation by the Maryland State Police Crash Team.
Cohen joined the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department in April 2003 and was previously a member of the department’s Board of Directors. He had received multiple commendations for service and heroism. Cohen grew up in Rockville and was a graduate of Winston Churchill High School.
The driver of the southbound Honda Accord and his three passengers were transported to area hospitals, police said.
The driver of the northbound Acura did not report being injured.
No charges have been filed at this time. Upon completion of the investigation, it will be presented to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office for review.
The tragic crash highlights the dangers of highway crash scenes, particularly in the evenings. Here are some tips about immediate actions following an accident, courtesy of AAA:
1. Assist the Injured. Quickly check with those involved in the collision to determine if there are any injuries. If medical attention is needed, call 9-1-1. If medical attention is not needed, make sure you are not in imminent danger at the roadside.
2. Control the Scene. Before taking time to exchange information, get to a safe place. If there are no injuries and the vehicle is drivable, safely move to the right or left emergency lane. Some state laws require drivable vehicles to be removed from the roadway to avoid traffic congestion. Turn on your hazard lights and set out warning flares or reflective triangles. Do not leave the scene of the crash, but find a safe place to remain until emergency services arrive.
3. Notify the Police and Submit a Report. The law requires you notify the police. No matter what either party says, call the police and file a report. If the police do not come to the scene to open an investigation, you can file a report by visiting a local police department or automobile insurance agency in the days after a crash. Having a report on file may help later if a liability claim is filed.
4. Document the Scene and Exchange Information. It is important to exchange and gather information with all parties involved in the crash, including witnesses. Having this on file will help complete any future paperwork or address potential problems. AAA suggests that you document:
- Addresses/email address
- Vehicle Information including makes, models and years for all cars involved
- Vehicle identification/license plate numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Insurance carriers and policy numbers
- Take photos of the location, people involved and damaged vehicles
Sign up for commuter news and transit updates for free, delivered to your inbox Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.