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Maryland state trooper killed in crash on I-95

Saturday - 5/21/2011, 1:31pm  ET

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Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks during a press conference about the accident that killed Trooper First Class Shaft Hunter, 39. (Michelle Basch/WTOP Photo)
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LAUREL, Md. - A Maryland state trooper was killed in an accident early this morning on southbound I-95 in Howard County.

Maryland State Police believe Trooper First Class Shaft Hunter, 39, hit a tractor trailer parked on the shoulder near the Laurel rest area, just south of Route 32.

The crash happened just after 2:30 a.m., just south of Route 32. Hunter, an 11 year veteran, was pronounced dead at the scene.

A witness told Police he was passed by a speeding motorcyclist that was followed by the trooper. Moments later the witness saw the trooper hit the back of a truck.

However, the trooper had not told his barrack about following a speeder before the crash. Police say this is not unusual.

The driver of the tractor trailer, Albert Sandino, 46, was not injured. Sandino told police he pulled off to to the side of the road to check directions.

Police are hoping to track down the motorcyclist they think the trooper was chasing, and that a license plate reader will help answer some questions.

Hunter leaves behind six children between the ages of 4 and 19. The family told police Hunter died doing what he loved.

Hunter was assigned to road patrol duties at the Waterloo Barrack. He was working a night patrol shift when the crash happened.

Before become a trooper, he served in the Marine Corps between 1994 and 2000. He was born in Bridgeport, Conn. and earned a criminal justice degree from St. Augustine College in Raleigh, N.C.

Gov. Martin O'Malley is calling Hunter's death a terrible loss. In a written statement, O'Malley says the incident is a tragic reminder of the risks law enforcement officers take to keep the public safe.

"He is the 43rd state trooper to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the people of Maryland," said Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Terrence B. Sheridan in a written statement. "His death comes at the end of National Police Week, when we honor the more than 19,000 police officers nationwide who have given their lives in the line of duty. TFC Hunter has now joined the ranks of these American heroes."

The crash investigation closed all lanes of southbound I-95, but were reopened around 8:30 a.m.

WTOP's Michelle Basch contributed to this report. Follow Michelle and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)