The president of a grocery store chain and a 7-year-old boy were killed in a collision involving 12 vehicles on Route 24 in Harford County.
Officials with Harford County Fire and EMS said the collision closed Route 24 at Ring Factory Road with fire and an entrapment Monday morning.
A preliminary investigation indicates a tractor-trailer was traveling south on Route 24, north of Ring Factory Road. Traffic was stopped and backed up prior to the Ring Factory intersection.
For unknown reasons, the driver of the tractor-trailer failed to slow or stop and collided with numerous vehicles, according to officials. The truck came to a stop at Ring Factory Road and caught on fire, along with two other vehicles that became pinned under the truck, officials said.
It is believed a total of 12 vehicles were involved in the crash.
Maryland State Police identified the two people killed in the crash as Tripp Johnson, 7, of Joppa, and Andrew Klein, 65, of Forest Hill. Johnson was taken to University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, where he died. Klein was pronounced dead at the scene.
WBAL-TV 11 News has learned that Klein is one of the owners of nine Klein's ShopRite Supermarkets in the area.
The company sent a statement to 11 News, saying: "We are shocked and saddened to learn about the tragic accident that took place in Maryland today and claimed two precious lives, including a boy and our own beloved ShopRite family member, Andrew Klein, president of Klein's Family Markets."
"Our hearts grieve with both families, and on behalf of the Klein family, we ask that the media and those seeking to express their condolences respect the family's privacy at this time.
"We are cooperating fully with the police, and because this is an active accident investigation, we cannot provide further comment."
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman's office sent a statement to 11 News, saying: "We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Andy Klein. Andy followed his family's legacy of giving back to many community groups in Harford County. He was an early supporter of our 24/7 Harford County Crisis Center for behavioral health and addiction. We pray for God's healing for his family and for the family of the child who was also lost today."
According to police, Tripp was in the car with his mom waiting at a red light when the tractor-trailer plowed into them from behind. State police told 11 News that Tripp's mother was taken to Shock Trauma for treatment.
Police said there is nothing any of the victims could have done to prevent it.
"There was no stopping. We don't know why. It could have been any one of a number of factors," Maryland State Police spokesman Ron Snyder said.
Several others were taken to hospitals and Shock Trauma for treatment of their injuries.
Officials said the driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.
Officials said there were many witnesses and they are being interviewed.
"It was horrible, and then, when I found out it was a little boy, it was devastating, and the flames were flying so high in the air and there were explosions afterward," said Sharon Broll, a witness. "I have a 5-year-old little boy, and when you think about that, and seeing those flames, it's just I just don't even want to think about it."
"That's tough to hear. A 7-year-old boy. That's, I mean, I have a 9-year-old daughter, too, in school. That's tough to hear, for anybody. It's just, it's tough," said Travis Spriggs, a father of three children.
"It makes you want to make sure you make the most of every day," said Suzanne Barbato, a grandmother.
All northbound and southbound Route 24 lanes between Plumtree Road and Marketplace Drive were closed for several hours.