A woman was driving on the Capital Beltway before dawn Tuesday when a 3-foot-long piece of metal pierced the windshield and slammed into her chest.
The woman was hurt after the freak accident on the Beltway's Outer Loop near Route 355 (Rockville Pike), a Montgomery County fire department spokesman said.
A rescue crew of about a dozen people had to use a saw to free the driver from her van.
It initially appeared that the driver, who was not identified, had been impaled by the long piece of metal. At the hospital, though, doctors saw that she had an injury from the impact. Her thick winter clothing may have cushioned the blow, medics said.
Officials said her injuries were serious but non-life-threatening.
Authorities said the piece of debris was a leaf spring, a part that supports the suspension of a vehicle. The piece was 3 feet long and 4 inches wide, the fire department spokesman said.
Chopper4 video showed two long, thin strips of debris piercing the windshield of the van.
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It wasn't clear why the debris was on the highway. Maryland State Police are investigating.
Some lanes in the area were blocked, leading to a 5-mile backup shortly before 7 a.m.