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Charges on deck in fatal 2013 collision on Route 28

| Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, 1:11 a.m.
Matthew R. Eiseman, 31, of Indiana Township died on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in a wrong-way, head-on collision on Route 28 in O’Hara.

After almost a year, state police are preparing to file charges against a driver they say killed an Indiana Township man in a car crash on Route 28.

James Alexander Hanion, 64, of Pittsburgh is accused of being intoxicated, driving the wrong way and crashing his vehicle into one driven by Matthew R. Eiseman, 31, of Indianola, Indiana Township, on Feb. 24, 2013.

Police allege Hanion was driving south in the northbound lane when his vehicle collided with Eiseman's car about a quarter-mile north of the Delafield Road exit (Exit 7) in O'Hara.

According to the state's computerized criminal court records, Hanion will be charged with homicide by vehicle; homicide by vehicle while driving drunk; involuntary manslaughter; two counts of drunken driving, reckless driving, driving the wrong way and five related charges.

Although police obtained a warrant for Hanion on Tuesday and the charges against him are listed in court records, they haven't been filed with a district judge and Hanion has not been arrested.

Still, Eiseman's family say they are satisfied with the investigation.

“State police have been wonderful,” said Eiseman's sister, Melinda Tuerffs of Indiana Township. “We are confident that the justice system will prevail.”

Eiseman was one of Tuerffs' three younger brothers.

“He was a wonderful person. He was a genuinely decent human being,” she said. “There wasn't a mean streak in his body.”

Tuerffs said Eiseman's girlfriend was three months pregnant at the time of the crash. His son is about 6 months old and lives in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Tuerffs declined to talk about Hanion or the charges against him.

Court documents do not list an address for Hanion, and he does not have a listed phone number.

State police say the nature of the investigation is to blame for the length of time it took to get an arrest warrant.

State police Sgt. Fred Krute said he could not comment specifically on Hanion's case but he noted that the process is much the same for all vehicular homicide investigations.

Accident reconstruction teams have to examine each vehicle and process various pieces of evidence. In addition, said Krute, most modern cars are equipped with “black boxes” that record how the vehicle was performing at the time of a crash.

Although the information in those boxes can be valuable for investigators, it isn't easy to get.

Krute said search warrants have to be obtained for the boxes before they are removed from the vehicles. The boxes are then shipped to the vehicle manufacturer to retrieve the coded information.

That, said Krute, can add months to a vehicular homicide investigation.

It's not until the information is in hand that the police can seek arrest warrants and file charges.

In the meantime, Eiseman's family plans to commemorate the anniversary of his death.

Family and friends will honor his memory with a private, red balloon launch on Sunday afternoon, a day before the anniversary of his death, Tuerffs said.

“If anyone wants to join with us, just launch a red balloon at 5:15 p.m. Sunday,” she said. “A red balloon is the way that (Mothers Against Drunken Driving) remembers loved ones.”

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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