TribLIVE

| Home


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Deadly crash in New Castle sparked 'chaos'

- Virgil Coonfare
Virgil Coonfare
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review - Barbara Brown, 69, of New Castle, Lawrence County holds a photograph of her grandson Emil 'Ozzy' Velez, 9, one of the boys who was hit by a truck while playing in Brown's front yard at the 900 block of Winslow Avenue in New Castle Sunday. The neighbor, Octavius Stone, 7, was killed in the accident.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Jasmine Goldband  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Barbara Brown, 69, of New Castle, Lawrence County holds a photograph of her grandson Emil 'Ozzy' Velez, 9, one of the boys who was hit by a truck while playing in Brown's front yard at the 900 block of Winslow Avenue in New Castle Sunday.  The neighbor, Octavius Stone, 7, was killed in the accident.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review - Orange spray paint on the grass in the front yard of the 900 block of Winslow Avenue shows the tracks from a truck that struck two boys playing in the yard in New Castle Sunday. Octavius Stone, 7, was killed in the accident.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Jasmine Goldband  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Orange spray paint on the grass in the front yard of the 900 block of Winslow Avenue shows the tracks from a truck that struck two boys playing in the yard in New Castle Sunday.  Octavius Stone, 7, was killed in the accident.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review - Maria Brown, 30, of New Castle, Lawrence County witnessed an accident across the street from her home Sunday when a truck struck two boys playing in the front yard at the 900 block of Winslow Avenue in New Castle. The neighbor, Octavius Stone, 7, was killed in the accident.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Jasmine Goldband  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Maria Brown, 30, of New Castle, Lawrence County witnessed an accident across the street from her home Sunday when a truck struck two boys playing in the front yard at the 900 block of Winslow Avenue in New Castle.  The neighbor, Octavius Stone, 7, was killed in the accident.
Copy Photo - Emil 'Ozzy' Velez, 9, one of the boys who was hit by a truck while playing in his grandmother's front yard at the 900 block of Winslow Avenue in New Castle Sunday. The neighbor, Octavius Stone, 7, was killed in the accident. Copy Photo
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Copy Photo</em></div>Emil 'Ozzy' Velez, 9, one of the boys who was hit by a truck while playing in his grandmother's front yard at the 900 block of Winslow Avenue in New Castle Sunday.  The neighbor, Octavius Stone, 7, was killed in the accident.  Copy Photo

Daily Photo Galleries

By Margaret Harding
Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, 9:30 a.m.
 

Barbara Brown thought her grandson was sword-fighting with a neighborhood friend when she heard sticks breaking outside.

Then the screaming started.

“I saw the little boy raise up and I looked at him,” said Brown, 69, of New Castle. “Everything was in chaos.”

Police in New Castle said Virgil Coonfare, 66, was under the influence of drugs Sunday afternoon when he drove a truck into a yard and struck Brown's grandson, Emil “Ozzy” Velez, 9, and his friend, Octavius Stone, 7. Brown spotted her grandson lying on the grass when she came outside.

“I said, ‘Ozzy, don't move,' ” Brown said. “I looked at him, and I could tell he wasn't OK. He looked at me — out of it, in a daze, but he still looked at me.”

Emil was in good condition in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh on Monday, where he was flown by helicopter after the 2:15 p.m. accident.

Octavius died of chest injuries, Lawrence County Deputy Coroner Richard Johnson said. Octavius' mother, Cynthia Clark, could not be reached for comment.

Police charged Coonfare with homicide by vehicle while under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence and driving under the influence. A woman who answered the phone at Coonfare's New Castle home said the family had no comment. Attorney David Acker, who is listed as Coonfare's attorney in court records, is out of town and did not return a message.

Coonfare's license was under suspension when he drove through the neighborhood, striking a car on Rose Avenue before taking Stanton Avenue and turning left on Winslow Avenue, New Castle police Chief Robert Salem said. Coonfare drove onto the sidewalk on Winslow and up an embankment through the front yards of two homes, police said. He hit the children around the front steps of a home on Winslow, police said.

“The kids were doing nothing wrong,” Salem said. “They were right up on the sidewalk by the porch, where they should be safe.”

Maria Brown, who is not related to Barbara, was outside her home on Winslow when, she said, she saw Coonfare drive up the embankment. She said he ran over the children and kept going.

“I just started screaming,” said Maria Brown, 30. “I'm pretty shook up still. I can't get it out of my head.”

Another neighbor, David Moffatt, 36, said he ran toward Coonfare when he heard him slurring his words and saw him staggering as he walked back toward the scene of the crash. Coonfare was wearing one shoe.

“I'm never going to forget it,” Moffatt said. “Every time I walk out, it's going to replay in my mind.”

Coonfare failed field sobriety tests, and police took him to Jameson Hospital in New Castle for further testing. A state trooper said Coonfare was under the influence of a depressant and a narcotic painkiller, according to a criminal complaint. Police found pill bottles in Coonfare's truck, but investigators have not determined specifically which drugs Coonfare took, Salem said.

A judge ordered Coonfare held without bail in the Lawrence County Prison. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.

Neighbors carrying a sympathy card collected donations for Octavius' family and Genevieve Gabriel, 72, of New Castle tied a balloon near the scene of the wreck. She said her great-nephew was friends with Octavius, and the two attended Thaddeus Stevens School.

“This just breaks my heart,” Gabriel said. “Such an ending for a little boy. Such an unhappy ending. I know he's in heaven, but it's too soon.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Norwin High School health teacher charged with selling heroin
  2. Pirates notebook: Locke makes bid for final rotation spot, Tabata cut
  3. Stocks snap 4-day losing streak; corporate earnings concerns linger
  4. Cat or dog not great fit for pet? A bunny might be your buddy
  5. Beaver County woman guilty in niece’s shooting
  6. Women Read/Women Write Book Fest returns bigger than ever
  7. The Word Guy: When to get possessive about nouns? Try this
  8. Aldi to open store where Bottom Dollar closed in Garfield
  9. West Homestead man taken into custody after 8-hour standoff in Hempfield
  10. Penguins notebook: Malkin likely to return Saturday
  11. Hays eagle egg watch continues