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Armstrong County man charged in 2012 fatal wreck in O'Hara

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 3:39 p.m.

State police on Friday arrested an Armstrong County man on charges stemming from a May 2012 crash that killed a 6-year-old boy.

Kirk A. Fair, 39, of North Buffalo was charged with homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Elijah Straw of Aspinwall.

Elijah died at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville on May 1, 2012, about an hour after the 7:30 p.m. crash along Route 28. He was a passenger in a car driven by his father, Thomas Straw, along with his mother, Jennifer Straw, and brother Rowan, 4.

Cpl. Jeremy Bowser, who supervised the investigation, said the charges were filed more than a year after the accident “because of a culmination of a lot of things that had to be looked into,” including having the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office approve the charges.

According to the state police affidavit, the hood latch on the Straws' 2004 Pontiac Vibe malfunctioned, causing the hood to fly up, and driver Thomas Straw couldn't see. He brought the vehicle to a stop in the center lane of a three-lane section of Route 28 northbound near the RIDC Park exit in O'Hara.

Fair, driving a white Ford F250 pickup truck, told police he took his eyes off the road and, when he looked up, he saw the Vibe with lights flashing, the court papers stated. Fair said he tried to swerve the truck out of the way, but he couldn't because it was weighed down with work materials.

Elijah suffered head injuries, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office. The rest of his family also suffered various injuries, for which they were treated at area hospitals.

Police said Fair's “recklessness and gross negligence in violating the vehicle code caused his vehicle to crash into the rear of the Pontiac Vibe at a high rate of speed.”

An accident investigation showed Fair would have been able to see the Vibe from more than 2,000 feet before the accident and would have had 5 to 7 seconds to stop the truck before striking the car.

Fair was driving at 71 mph in a 55 mph zone, but struck the vehicle at a speed of between 54 and 65 mph, according to the affidavit.

Fair, who also suffered injuries, also was charged with three counts of aggravated assault by vehicle, four counts of recklessly endangering another person and a number of summary traffic offenses.

Elijah Straw was a first-grader at O'Hara Elementary School in the Fox Chapel Area School District.

Fair was in the Allegheny County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bond on Saturday after being arraigned before a district judge in Pittsburgh City Court.

Staff writer Adam Brandolph contributed to this report. Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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