On August 12 at 1:22 p.m., Charles County Sheriff's officers responded to the 11900 block of Charles Street, about a half-mile west of Penns Hill Road, for the report of a motor vehicle crash involving an on-duty correctional officer. The investigation revealed a 2000 Dodge Dakota was traveling east on Charles Street when the driver, a 17-year-old Leonardtown boy, crossed the center line. A Dodge 1500 pickup truck traveling west on Charles Street swerved to avoid the Dakota, but the Dakota struck the back of the truck and the trailer hitched to the truck that was carrying lawn equipment. A Charles County Sheriff's Office Ford Crown Victoria was traveling behind the Dodge 1500 and the driver swerved to avoid the collision, but the Dakota struck the Ford as well.
The officer, Correctional Officer First Class Jeffrey Lane Merchant, 42, sustained life-threatening injuries and was flown by a Maryland State Police helicopter to Baltimore Shock Trauma, where he has received treatment. Although his injuries are considered serious, they are no longer life-threatening. The inmate, Kenneth Leroy Estepp, 47, of Waldorf, sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was flown by a US Park Police helicopter to Prince George's General Hospital. The 17-year-old sustained incapacitating injuries and was flown by a Maryland State Police helicopter to Prince George's General Hospital, where his injuries are said to be non-life-threatening. The driver of the Dodge 1500, Calvin Lee Jr., 33, and his passenger, a 13-year-old boy, both of La Plata, were treated on the scene by emergency medical services personnel.
The correctional officer and the inmate were en route to the Charles County Detention Center from a dentist appointment. Speed and driver error appear to be factors in the crash. Alcohol does not appear to be a factor. Everyone involved in the crash was wearing a seatbelt. No charges have been filed. Cpl. D. W. Belfield of the Traffic Operations Unit is investigating the crash.