Police charge driver who struck woman in Strip District
Judith Kollar's large, close-knit family will have Christmas at her home in pain over her loss, but relatives said they hope safety improvements in the Strip District can prevent tragedy for another family.
“Everybody is pretty brokenhearted,” said Kollar's brother, Ray Braszo, 59, of Latrobe. “We'd hate to see anybody else go through this.”
Kollar, 53, of West Mifflin died in Allegheny General Hospital after three vehicles struck her as she crossed at Smallman and 14th streets about 7:10 a.m. Tuesday on her way to work. The driver of one of the vehicles, a box truck owned by Flora Pack Inc., kept going. Police eventually located the man, identified as Brian Jamieson, 61, of Niagara Falls, on Interstate 79 in Erie and charged him with being in an accident involving a death or personal injury.
Jamieson told investigators he was on Smallman, but did not say he hit Kollar, according to a criminal complaint. Robert Whitenect, finance controller for Flora Pack, referred comment to attorney John Zotter, who did not return a message.
“That will take its course, but right now she's not going to be back, so that's the hard part,” Braszo said of the arrest.
Kollar, who was a supervisor at Adagio Health, typically parked in the lot near Smallman and walked about 10 minutes to her office Downtown, Braszo said. He described her as a “go-getter,” dedicated to her job and family. She had three children and a grandchild and recently spoke to her sister-in-law about the Christmas menu for the nearly 30 relatives she planned to host.
“You know how you have a person you go to for everything? That was her,” said Bernadette Braszo, Kollar's sister-in-law. “So now, when this terrible thing happens, I don't have her to go to.”
Pittsburgh police — who stopped speeding drivers along Smallman Street and Penn Avenue on Wednesday — said they will add officers to patrol the Strip; one business there pays for private patrols. City police could not supply statistics on Wednesday on the number of pedestrian-related accidents in the Strip District this year.
“It's a bustling place,” Zone 2 Cmdr. Eric Holmes said. “There's a lot of traffic. You have pedestrians, the regular motoring public and commercial traffic. We'll try to attack it on different levels. We'll do visible patrols and some enforcement.”
Department of Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski said the city added cross-hatching lines to crosswalks, yield-to-pedestrian signs and enhanced lighting in the Strip to improve safety. In light of the incident, Kaczorowski said he would look into adding electronic pedestrian alerts at crosswalks in the area and other measures.
“When something like this happens, I can't sit back and just say it is what is,” Kaczorowski said. “It's something we're going to look at.”
Education Management Corp. pays for off-duty officers to be stationed at the intersections of 15th and Smallman streets, 15th Street and Penn Avenue, and 14th Street and Penn Avenue during the morning and afternoon rushes, police said.
Neighbors in the Strip executive director Becky Rodgers said she would like to see improvements such as traffic lights at 13th, 15th and 17th streets.
“We need to do something sooner rather than later,” Rodgers said.
Bernadette Braszo said the family also wants changes.
“She didn't do anything at all,” she said. “She was just going to work and trying to make a living. That's all.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.