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Maryland State Trooper Killed in Crash

LAUREL, Md. --

Maryland State Police have identified the trooper who died Saturday in a crash involving a tractor-trailer in Howard County.

Trooper First Class Shaft S. Hunter, 39, an 11-year veteran of the Maryland State Police, died after a marked cruiser and a tractor-trailer collided on southbound Interstate 95 near Maryland Route 32 at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, officials said.

Hunter had six children -- ages 4 to 19 -- and was assigned to road patrol duties at the Waterloo Barrack. He was on-duty working a night patrol shift on I-95 when the crash occurred.

"Troopers do extremely difficult and extremely dangerous jobs every single day," Gov. Martin O'Malley said. "They put their lives on the line for us. I just ask for prayers for this courageous trooper's family."

"I met with the family and his mother said to me, 'If he was going to die, he died doing what he loved and that is being a Maryland state trooper," said Col. Terrence Sheridan, superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

"He was an outstanding trooper who was very dedicated to his job," said Lt. Dan Truitt, commander of the Waterloo Barrack.

Investigators said Hunter was traveling southbound on I-95 when he struck a tractor-trailer that was parked on the shoulder of the interstate, just before the entrance ramp to the rest area. He was wearing his seat belt when the crash occurred.

A witness told investigators he was passed by a motorcycle that was traveling at a high rate of speed just before being passed by a marked state police car. Moments later, the witness said, the patrol car struck the rear of the tractor-trailer.

Based on witness information, Hunter was possibly in pursuit of this speeding motorcycle. He had not radioed in to the barrack, but that is not unusual when a trooper is in the initial moments of an attempted traffic stop, investigators said.

"We have license plate reader just south of here. We're going to look at the data to see if we can find the motorcyclist," Sheridan said.

The patrol car struck the rear of the tractor-trailer and then traveled down the side of the trailer, coming to rest near the front of the trailer. The tractor-trailer driver was not injured in the crash.

The tractor-trailer driver was identified as Albert Sandino, 46, of Covina, Calif. He was driving a 2009 International truck tractor pulling a box trailer loaded with household bleach. The truck was headed from Aberdeen to Virginia. The driver told investigators he had pulled to the side of the interstate briefly to check for directions to his destination.

The southbound lanes of I-95 in Howard County that were shut down after the crash re-opened at about 8:30 a.m., although motorists should expect delays to linger.

O'Malley also issued a statement Saturday, saying, "I'm saddened by the news of Trooper Hunter's tragic death. This tragedy, particularly as it occurred on duty as Trooper Hunter worked to keep our highways safe, reminds us of the dangers associated with law enforcement and the risks they take on a daily basis to keep our state safe. My thoughts and prayers, and those of all Marylanders, are with the Hunter family on this difficult day."

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