Route 28 accident victim in critical condition; expressway reopened after 5.5 hours
A man injured along Route 28 in East Deer Thursday when his car was struck from behind by an SUV remained in critical condition Friday at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, Pittsburgh.
State police early Friday said John P. Jaycox of Harrison suffered what they described as moderate injuries when he was struck by an SUV as he was sitting on the trunk of his car, which was pulled over to the berm of the road. He apparently was waiting for help to change a flat tire.
State police identified the SUV driver as Rachel R. Bailie, 23, of Tarentum, who was cited with careless driving. She was driving a Chevrolet Tahoe with a 5-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl as passengers. Neither child was hurt. Bailie suffered a minor facial injury.
Police said Bailie got on Route 28 at the Exit 13 onramp at Bailies Run Road about 6 p.m. but drove off the right side of the road and onto the berm, where Jaycox' car was parked. Jaycox was thrown off the car and onto the roadway as Bailie's SUV slammed into his 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
The crash near the Bailies Run Road overpass left the front of the Tahoe lodged in the middle of the passenger compartment of the Cutlass.
Route 28 southbound was closed for 5 1⁄2 hours between the Tarentum and Pittsburgh Mills mall interchanges. That resulted in heavy traffic on Freeport Road through Tarentum and East Deer while state police and other authorities investigated the crash.
Jaycox was flown from the scene by a medical helicopter, which landed on Route 28.
Curtis Howard of Arnold said he saw the crash happen. He said he saw a big cloud of smoke and a man “flipping in the air.”
“She said, ‘I didn't see him,' ” Howard said, refering to Bailie.
Howard said he stayed at the crash scene for about an hour and told police what he saw, which left him shaken.
While others were helping Jaycox, a Buffalo Township woman who witnessed the crash said she stood with the Tahoe driver later identified as Bailie.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she had been heading south on Route 28 when she saw the Tahoe about a quarter-mile ahead swerve into the outer guardrail. It wasn't until she got out that she realized the SUV had hit the car and a man was lying unconscious on the highway.
“She was just hysterical. She had a baby on her hip and a 4-year-old boy with her,” the woman said. “I've never seen someone frantic like that. She was talking to her husband on the phone, saying, ‘I don't know what happened.' She was in an absolute state of panic.
“She was so scared and screaming and so distraught. She was worried about going to jail. I told her it was an accident.
“I just stayed there with her until her family got there. I prayed with her for the gentleman (on the road). We prayed for his survival.”
Route 28 southbound was eventually closed at the Tarentum interchange. Vehicles between there and the crash scene were directed off the expressway down the on-ramp at Bailies Run.
Motorists were being advised to use recently reopened Murrayhill Road to get back to the expressway at the Pittsburgh Mills interchange in Frazer.
At the Sheetz in East Deer, a clerk said he was frequently giving people directions for how to get back on the highway.
Bill and Laurie Matchneer were traveling south on Route 28, making their way home to the South Hills, when they came upon emergency vehicles blocking the road.
“We were full speed ahead and all of a sudden we see flashing lights,” Laurie Matchneer said. “We really had to slam on the brakes to stop.”
The couple made their way through traffic on Freeport Road from Tarentum to East Deer, where they made a pit stop at Sheetz.
The traffic on Freeport Road was pretty bad, Bill Matchneer said.
“It's not made for this kind of traffic,” he said. “That's why 28 is there,” he said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer, Liz Hayes and Tom Yerace are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Rittmeyer can be reached at 724-226-4701 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Hayes can be reached at 724-226-4680 or email@example.com and Yerace can be reached at 724-226-4675 and firstname.lastname@example.org.