A deputy chief from the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal and an FBI agent are dead after a driver in a Honda Accord struck and killed them both Friday night.
Deputy Chief Sander Cohen, 33, stopped to assist FBI Supervisory Special Agent Carlos Wolff, 36, who had been in a single-vehicle crash southbound on Interstate Highway 270, Maryland State Police said.
Cohen – who grew up in Rockville and was a graduate of Winston Churchill High School – was also a member of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, where he held the rank of Lieutenant and had volunteered for over 14 years, beginning at the age of 19.
“It [the Rockville fire station] was his family,” said Rockville VFD President Eric Bernard. “He wasn’t married, so he would come see people working on the other shifts.”
When Cohen – who was off-duty and driving his personal vehicle southbound on I-270, north of Gude Drive – came upon Wolff’s car which appeared to have been in a single-vehicle crash, Cohen called the Maryland State Police Rockville Barrack and requested assistance. He then blocked Wolff’s car with his own, and activated his emergency lights. Wolff’s vehicle was blocking the fast lane of the southbound lanes of I-270 near Rockville. Cohen then exited his vehicle and joined Wolff outside his car on the left shoulder of the highway, before both men were struck by the Accord and propelled over the center barrier into the northbound lanes of I-270. Police identified Roberto A. Garza Palacios, 28, of Germantown as the Accord’s driver.
Police also identified Brittany A. Waters, 32, of Clarksburg, as the uninjured driver of an involved northbound 2017 Acura ILX.
Cohen died at the accident scene, and first responders transported Wolff to Suburban Hospital, where doctors subsequently pronounced him dead as well.
As a result of the accident, Maryland State Police said the main lanes of I-270 near Gude Drive were closed in both directions from 10 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Saturday.
The Maryland State Police – which includes the Office of the State Fire Marshal – are classifying Cohen’s death as one in the line of duty, which is a special honor. State police representatives said Cohen became “on duty” when he requested assistance, blocked the car, and activated his emergency lights.
Police have not filed charges against Palacios or Waters, but the investigation is ongoing. Police will present the case to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office upon the conclusion of their investigation for review.
Rockville VFD officials added in a statement that Cohen “will be sorely missed by his many friends within the fire/rescue and law enforcement communities.”
“Deputy Chief Cohen had no idea who was inside the vehicle he stopped behind,” Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel William Pallozzi said. “He just recognized that someone needed help and he never hesitated last night to stop and help someone in need. Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Sander Cohen has now joined the ranks of Maryland’s Fallen Heroes.”