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Two months after crash, family misses Arnold home

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Hawk Towing's Jimmy Elias pulls the car out of a Leishman Avenue house in Arnold after a car struck it on Tuesday morning, February 11, 2014.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 12:31 a.m.

Two months after she survived a car smashing into her Arnold house, Sherry Ashbaugh says Tuesday she still isn't sleeping.

Ashbaugh, 42, and her two young children were home at 2125 Leishman Ave. on Feb. 11 when the unbelievable happened.

Neighbor Richard Swiklinski, 64, of the 300 block of Murray Avenue, was behind the wheel of a car that careened down steep Murray Avenue and failed to stop at the T-intersection of Murray and Leishman avenues.

According to court records, Swiklinski pleaded guilty to driving too fast for conditions and careless driving. He paid about $250 in fines and court costs.

Swiklinski declined to comment on Tuesday.

Ashbaugh; her husband Harry; daughter, Samantha, 5; and son, Brandon, 3, are still waiting for what comes next.

The family is temporarily staying in a townhouse in Lower Burrell that's being paid for by their insurance company.

“It's nice, but it's not having your own house,” Ashbaugh said.

“I'm hanging in there, but it's very stressful,” she said. “It's still very traumatic.”

Damage to the modest house is extensive. The first floor has caved in where the 2000 Taurus barrelled into the front door, through the living room and kitchen. The upstairs steps are smashed, too, so the family can't get inside to retrieve any undamaged belongings.

Sherry said she “gets sick every time I go there.”

Her sister, Alicia Phillips, understands.

“She almost died there,” Phillips said. “There's no way she can live there again. It's so emotional.”

The family is working with its insurance company, a contractor and an attorney to determine what can be done.

Ashbaugh understands that the process can take time. That gives her more time to reflect on what was and could have been.

“I look at the kids and think, ‘What if I or one of them weren't still here?' And I can't imagine it,” she said.

Ashbaugh wants to thank her neighbors, police and firefighters who helped get the kids and helped her.

Samantha is “talking a lot” about the old house. Brandon says he “misses his house,” their mother said.

Ashbaugh said she is getting medical and psychological help and her daughter will start counseling soon.

That, too, is causing stress because the family only has one income and they can't afford insurance.

“We're barely paying our bills,” she said.

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

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