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Accident claims life of recent Southmoreland grad

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:09 p.m.
Firefighters work the scene of an accident that claimed the life of Brendan Walter, 18, of Tarrs, July 19 on Route 31 near Zemba Lane in East Huntingdon Township.
Liz Zemba I Tribune-Review
Firefighters work the scene of an accident that claimed the life of Brendan Walter, 18, of Tarrs, July 19 on Route 31 near Zemba Lane in East Huntingdon Township.

Recollections of Brendan Walter are those of a fun person, who seemed to adhere closely to his favorite expression “Be Happy.”

Walter, 18, of Tarrs died when the 2004 Honda Civic he was driving collided with a dump truck about 4:50 p.m. Saturday in East Huntingdon Township.

He was pronounced dead at the scene with multiple blunt-force injuries at 6:19 p.m. at 1296 Route 31 near Zemba Lane, according to Kenneth Bacha, Westmoreland County coroner.

Walter was the lone occupant of the car, which failed to negotiate a slight curve in the road, according to the report.

A 2014 graduate of Southmoreland High School, he was a four-year letterman for the Southmoreland in-line hockey team and a two-year letterman for the boys soccer team.

“He was an involved student here,” said Daniel Krofcheck, high school principal. “He was one of our key leaders on the soccer team. He and his brothers have always been leaders among the soccer players. He had a great sense of humor. He was always a good-spirited person. He never really had problems with anybody here.”

A grief counselor was available at the high school Monday and Tuesday.

Soccer coach Chris Hixson remembered Walter as a player who came off the bench and gave him and the team a solid 10-15 minutes each half from the forward position.

“I didn't have to worry about putting him in there and our play dropping,” Hixson said. “He accepted his role and never complained about not starting.”

He echoed the sentiments of Krofcheck that Walter was a “fun kid.”

“He'd push you a little to see how you would react,” Hixson said. “He was fun to joke around with.”

Hixson said Walter's two older brothers and one younger brother also were soccer players, and his mother often helped the team. Younger brother Cameron will be entering his junior year at the high school.

“I feel for her,” he said. “She's a super mom, very active in her kids' lives. I've known Debbie forever. I call her ‘super mom' because her kids are her life. I've never not seen her at a game.”

He said the team had 10 seniors graduate in 2014.

“It's going to be a tough time,” Hixson said. “All the guys who graduated were pretty close. I feel for Cam. He's taking it pretty hard. ... If (the guys on the team) need to talk to me, they're more than welcome to get a hold of me. It takes time. There's no magic cure for it.” ”

Walter also was a member of the Southmoreland in-line hockey team that captured the Pennsylvania In-Line Roller Hockey League championship in 2012.

Coach C.J. King said Walter was part of a group on the school's initial in-line squad and played just about any position.

“He was kind of everything. He played some offense and he played some defense,” King said. “Brendan was always team-first. He was always the first person to stick up for a teammate, always just a fun kid to hang around.”

When contacted Monday, King said he had spoken briefly with a few members of the team and for them it hadn't seemed to sink in yet.

“It leaves a void, that's for sure,” King said. “The next couple of days are going to be hard. ... They started this four years ago when they were freshmen and they finished it out as seniors.”

Sports were important to the young man known as “B,” as he also loved to hunt, fish and ride quads while enjoying time at the family's cabin with his family and his canines, Molly and Coal.

He was enrolled at Westmoreland County Community College for the fall semester in the school's welding program.

A state trooper at the scene said Walter was traveling west on Route 31 when he traveled into the eastbound lane, where his car was hit on the passenger side by an eastbound dump truck.

According to state police, the driver of the truck was taken to Excela Health Frick Hospital for minor injuries.

Speed is believed to be a factor in the crash, and Walter was not wearing a seat belt, according to the coroner.

Mark Harper said he was working in a garage next to his home on Route 31 when he heard two cars pass by at high speed.

“I heard the cars racing up through here,” Harper said. “Then all I heard was a bang.”

Harper said the passenger car was split in two.

The front wheel of the car and part of the engine came to rest about 50 feet from the rest of the car, with the dump truck on top of the car's trunk.

“I just heard what sounded like an explosion,” said Harriet Carolen, who was in her house nearby. “When I turned around and looked out the window, car parts were flying through the air. I knew it was bad; the car was split in half.”

Crews from Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale volunteer fire departments responded, along with an ambulance and state police.

A funeral service for Walter is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at the Frank Kapr Funeral Home, 417 W. Pittsburgh St., with the Rev. Stephen Moore of Trinity United Methodist Church officiating.

In lieu of flowers, memorials were asked to be presented to his parents Howard and Debra Lee Walter for a scholarship to be set up in “B's” memory.

Along with his parents and his brother Cameron, Brendan Walter is survived by brothers Devan, Derek and Jeremy, as well as his grandparents, four uncles, six aunts and 16 cousins.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or Stacey Federoff and Liz Zemba contributed to this story.

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