FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misidentified the drivers of the Buick and the Mazda, based on a mistake in the initial release from VSP. The identities have since been corrected.
Two people are dead and another person is in the hospital after a wrong-way, head-on crash on Interstate 495 Tuesday night.
Virginia State Police responded to a crash in the northbound lanes of I-495, north of Exit 46 for Chain Bridge Road around 10:15 p.m.
A preliminary investigation found that a Mazda was traveling south in the northbound lanes of I-495 when it struck a Buick Encore head-on. The impact caused the Buick to catch on fire, investigators said.
Northbound lanes of I-495 were closed for the crash investigation but have since reopened.
Both drivers died on the scene. Police later identified the driver of the Mazda as Kaan T. Karabekir, 28, of Bethesda, Maryland, and the driver of the Buick was identified as Patrick J.C. Mullins, 32, of Catlett, Virginia. Investigators say Mullins was ejected.
A female passenger in the Buick was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, and then on to Washington Hospital Center for treatment of life-threatening injuries and burns sustained in the crash. She was not identified by police.
VSP said neither driver nor the passenger were wearing seatbelts.
These deaths come the day the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its early estimate of traffic fatalities for 2021.
NHTSA projects that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020. The projection is the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history.
Chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) issued a joint statement on the data.
“The staggering number of deaths occurring on our nation’s roadways is an ongoing crisis that demands urgent attention,” the statement reads, in part. "We are committed to doing everything in our power at the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to make our roads safer—and will be announcing a hearing soon focused on doing just that.”