Police continue fatal crash probe

High-tech device maps out scene

May 20, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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A state police accident reconstruction specialist investigates Tuesday at the scene of Sunday's fatal crash in Middlesex Township.

The accident reconstruction investigation continued Tuesday into a weekend crash in Middlesex Township that killed two women when the car they were riding in slammed into the front of a convenience store on Route 8.

Middlesex Township police officer Conrad Pfeifer said he also is preparing a search warrant that would allow police to inspect the car, a 2008 Kia Optima, for any mechanical problems that could have contributed to the wreck about 12:10 a.m. Sunday at CoGo's.

Police said they have the car impounded at their station, and hope to inspect the vehicle Thursday.

Kimberly Young, 39, and Patricia Collins, 36, both of Middlesex Township died of injuries sustained in the crash. Both women were passengers in the car.

Young was pronounced dead at the scene. Collins was pronounced dead shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday at UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh.

The driver, Diane Read, 37, of Middlesex Township, remains hospitalized at UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh with moderate injuries. Authorities said she suffered a neck injury, broken leg bones and a punctured lung.

All three women were neighbors on Dwellington Drive, just one-quarter mile from where the crash happened. They had just left the neighborhood. Police suspect alcohol and speed were factors in the crash.

Investigators have not spoken to Read, adding that she retained an attorney.

Township police assisted state police accident reconstruction specialists during Tuesday's on-scene investigation, which included the use of an electronic, optical instrument known as a “total station.”

The device is an advanced imaging and measurement system investigators use to produce accurate measurements and data for three-dimensional animations or mappings.

Pfeifer noted it will take weeks before the report is completed. After that time, police would decide if criminal charges would be filed.

Police said they also plan to seek a search warrant for Read's medical records, including toxicology reports.

Additionally, Pfeifer said police secured the store's video surveillance system as part of their investigation. He acknowledged he has not yet accessed the video and “we don't know what it shows.”

Middlesex Township police assist state police accident reconstruction specialists during Tuesday’s on-scene investigation at the COGO’s along Route 8. Two women died after the car they were riding in slammed into the front of the convenience store early Sunday.

Middlesex Township police Sgt. Randy Davison, the department's officer in charge, also noted Tuesday police plan to seek a search warrant for the video footage.

The store, which was closed at the time of the crash, sustained severe damage and remains closed.

A telephone message left for the owner was not immediately returned Tuesday.

While the road was closed for the initial investigation Sunday, according to authorities, two motorists drove upon the scene and were arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. Two assisting departments made those arrests.

In one of those incidents, Penn Township Sgt. Cheryl Cranmer said she stopped a driver traveling south about 2 a.m. The woman in her 20s from Allison Park, Allegheny County, drove approximately 20 feet past the police barricade before she was stopped.

The woman subsequently was taken for a breath test showing she was over the state's 0.08 percent legal limit for alcohol. Charges are pending, Cranmer said.

A short time earlier, state police also stopped a woman for suspected DUI.

Those arrests and the suspected circumstances surrounding the crash, Cranmer noted, happened just two days after Butler County moved from Gov. Tom Wolf's “red” to “yellow” phase of his coronavirus pandemic reopening plan.

The move allowed some businesses to reopen after the most restrictive virus precautions were lifted, and it was seen by some as a step toward getting back to normal.

Cranmer offered a word of advice: “People are starting to get back out and enjoy themselves. But with that, they need to remember their responsibility.”

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Jim Smith

Jim Smith

Grew up in upstate New York. Earned my Journalism degree in 1983 from the University of Texas at Austin. Worked for two newspapers in Fayette County (Pa.) before starting at the Butler Eagle in 1998.