Ligonier Township 17-year-old dies in crash on birthday after deer runs in front of car
The Ligonier community held a vigil Tuesday evening for a teenager killed in a crash on his 17th birthday while driving to school with his brother, who was seriously injured.
Nicholas Richard Neiderhiser was behind the wheel with his brother Tyler as a passenger Tuesday when his car crashed along Route 711, about 2 miles north of the borough in Ligonier Township, according to the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office.
Township police confirmed witnesses' reports that a deer ran in front of Neiderhiser's Chevrolet Nova. The car traveled off the road and struck a tree, Coroner Ken Bacha said.
"The Ligonier Valley lost an outstanding young gentleman today," said Jake Foust, assistant coach of the Ligonier Junior Legion baseball team, which Neiderhiser played on last summer. "He was just a great kid who did anything you asked of him, and his family is very nice. ... It's such a tragedy,"
"Nick played right field. He always gave 100 percent. He was easy to coach and always respectful," Foust said.
Ligonier Valley School District Superintendent Christine Oldham said teachers and students were devastated by news of the accident.
A community vigil for the Neiderhisers was held on The Diamond in Ligonier Tuesday evening.
Westmoreland County 911 supervisors said it was about 6:50 a.m. when Neiderhiser's car went off Route 711 near Barron Road and traveled down an embankment. Both brothers were trapped in the wreckage. The coroner's office said Tyler Neiderhiser was airlifted to Conemaugh Health System in Johnstown.
Bacha reported Nicholas Neiderhiser was not wearing a seat belt, and the car wasn't equipped with air bags. Bacha ruled his death as accidental due to blunt-force trauma to the head, neck and chest.
Police said an accident report was not yet available, and the crash remains under investigation.
Route 711 was temporarily closed in the area of the crash.
"We're all just heartbroken and our thoughts and prayers go out to their family coping with such a loss. Nick was very well liked," Oldham said. She described the high school junior as "a great kid."
District officials posted a statement on their website:
"This morning, one of our Ligonier Valley High School students died as a result of a car accident. His brother was also injured in the accident. We are all shocked by the news of this tragedy, and our hearts and prayers go out to their family and friends.
"A sudden loss like this can cause many strong feelings, and we know that the next several weeks will be incredibly difficult for so many in our community. We have arranged for counselors and therapy dogs to be at Ligonier Valley High School today through the remainder of the week. Our staff and students are aware that these resources are available for them throughout the school day," the statement says.
Oldham said school officials have encouraged students to talk with their parents about their feelings. She said the school district website also will offer resources.
"These resources include 'Helping Children Cope with Loss, Death, and Grief' as well as a list of external counseling services. Should you have questions or concerns regarding your child's response to this shock, please feel free to contact the counselor of your child's school," the statement adds.
Oldham said many students were using the counseling services that were offered in school beginning Tuesday morning.
The J. Paul McCracken Funeral Chapel in Ligonier is handling arrangements, the coroner's office said.
Paul Peirce and Matthew Santoni are Tribune-Review staff writers. Peirce can be reached at 724-850-2860, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib. Santoni can be reached at 724-836-6660, email@example.com or on Twitter @msantoni.