by Jonathan Weaver
The fatal vehicle accident that killed five regional residents – including both drivers – and injured others along Route 156 in South Bend Township Wednesday night is currently under investigation by Pennsylvania State Police.
Troop D-Butler Public Information Officer Trooper Dan Kesten detailed the accident during a scheduled press conference yesterday afternoon.
“(Wednesday), shortly after 10PM, Pennsylvania State Police in the Kittanning barracks was dispatched to a report to a two-vehicle crash with fatalities and major injuries on State Route 56 near Gobbler’s Run Road in South Bend Township,” Trooper Kesten said. “Upon investigation, it was determined the Ford Mustang was traveling at a high rate of speed, lost control of the vehicle, the vehicle began to slide into the other lane, did crash in the other lane and was struck broadside by an oncoming 1995 Chevrolet Lumina.”
The crash is under investigation since it is unknown what caused the 2003 Ford Mustang driver – 19 year old Brandon Sulava of Apollo – to lose control or how fast he was traveling, Trooper Kesten said.
Trooper Kesten said speed was determined to be a factor due to the road curve and vehicle impact.
“Basically, the front end was ripped off of the (Ford Mustang GT,) and traveled a very-lengthy distance up the road,” Trooper Kesten said. “The crash scene was littered with debris.”
Sulava, an Apollo-Ridge student who graduated from Lenape Technical School in Manor Township – was killed in the crash, along with his two passengers – Brandon Sauers, 15 of Apollo who also attended Apollo-Ridge School District and Lenape Tech graduate Brieyonah Painter, 18 of Kittanning.
The Chevrolet Lumina driver – Crystal Kelley, 41 of Avonmore (Westmoreland County) – was also killed.
All four were pronounced dead on scene by Armstrong County Coroner Brian Myers.
Kent Smith, 34 of Elderton, a passenger in the Kelley vehicle, died last night shortly after 11:00 at UPMC Presbyterian.
The cause and manner of death for the deceased are pending autopsy results.
Kelley’s passengers – husband, Robert Kelley, Jr., 33 of Avonmore,and Kristy Schall, 35 of Elderton and Smith – were all transported by STAT MedEvac medical helicopters from the scene to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. The survivors were said to have suffered major injuries and are in critical condition.
Apollo-Ridge School District Superintendent Dr. Matthew Curci expressed sadness in confirmation of his students.
“Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest condolences are with all of those affected by this terrible tragedy and their families. We are working with our staff to have appropriate supports in place for our students, and will continue to have those supports in place as they return to school on Tuesday in this time of grief,” Dr. Curci said through an e-mail response.
Sulava and Painter both studied law enforcement technology at the school before their 2013 graduation.
Painter was entering into the U.S. Marine Corps in May.
Sulava was traveling west and Kelley east along the roadway.