When Emmitsburg resident Michael J. Crone had to pull over during a heavy downpour late Sept. 29 on his way home from work, he didn’t expect anyone to stop and help.
“I was having issues with the electrical [system] in my vehicle. I was actually using the defrost so much that I had to pull off the roadway. Everything was shutting down, and I couldn’t actually see anymore,” Crone explained. “So I was waiting there, and the rain hadn’t stopped, but it had cleared up a lot, and I was getting a little worried because it was still dark. I was losing the electrical [power], and I wasn’t even sure if my flashers were working.”
Suddenly, a pickup truck with bright, flashing strobe lights pulled up behind Crone’s ailing 1995 Honda Civic along northbound U.S. 15 near Auburn Road. A moment later, U.S. Marine Cpl. William Kyle Ferrell had set up road flares and stood in the rain at Crone’s driver’s side window, asking how else he could help.
After explaining his predicament, Crone told Ferrell he had called for a tow truck but didn’t know what else to do. Ferrell smiled, and told him he’d be right back; he just had to grab a raincoat.
“That was basically, in essence, the last time I saw him,” Crone said.
As Crone, 45, was still in his car, facing forward, he heard rather than felt a loud thump behind his car, then watched as a large truck of some sort screamed past in a blur by his window. Looking out his window, Crone was horrified to see Ferrell, who hadn’t even had time to share his name, lying in the road.
“The first thing I did was go out and stand in the travel lane to direct the cars to go across, to not go in the travel lane and not run him over because he wasn’t moving,” Crone said. “I attempted to take his pulse, and I thought I felt a pulse, but for all I know it could have been my own because this sort of thing gets your heart racing.”
A few cars swerved past before a helpful tractor-trailer driver saw what had happened and pulled his rig across the travel lanes, blocking northbound traffic, Crone said. As Crone’s tow truck driver arrived, several other witnesses, including Jennifer A. Caron, stepped out of their cars to help, as well.
Among the first things Caron noted was a large, well-lit trailer-truck pulled over north of where Ferrell lay motionless in the road.
“It appeared to be pulled over and stopped on the shoulder and ... it looked like it might have been a car-carrier type truck,” she said of the striking vehicle. “I noted that it was there, and then we were pretty focused on Corporal Ferrell, but at one point I stood up and turned around and saw the vehicle pull away, and honestly at that point, it didn’t even register in my head that something wasn’t right.”
As of Friday, more than a week after Ferrell lost his life on the side of U.S. 15, Maryland State Police were still looking for the driver of the truck that slipped away into the rainy night.
Along with contacting colleagues in Pennsylvania and setting up a traffic light sign near the scene, police also joined with Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland to offer rewards for tips leading to an arrest, said Lt. Wayne Wachsmuth, commander of the state police’s Frederick barrack.
“We’re getting a lot of tips, but nothing thus far has been substantial to the case, unfortunately,” Wachsmuth said, adding that detectives were hopeful that would change as the word spreads.
As of Friday, Crime Stoppers was offering up to $2,000 in reward money for tips that lead to an arrest of the hit-and-run driver, according to the group’s chairman, Earl Winterling. In addition, at least $1,000 was being offered by private donors independent of Crime Stoppers, according to state police.
The striking vehicle was described as either a heavy-duty pickup pulling a car-hauler trailer or a truck tractor pulling a trailer. In either case, the truck should have noticeable damage to its passenger side from having struck both Ferrell’s Nissan Titan pickup truck and Crone’s Civic, according to police.
Anyone with information should contact Metro Crime Stoppers of Maryland. Contact information can be found at metrocrimestoppers.org or by calling 866-756-2587. State police can be reached directly at 301-600-4151.
“I do hope they find” the driver who fled the area, Caron said. “But even finding that truck will not do anything to bring [Ferrell] back. It’s just a shame.”