Police try to find story behind suicide bombing
Rosemarie Fox said she will never be able to erase the memory of the carnage after a suicide truck bombing a few hundred feet from her home near rural Patton in Cambria County.
And she will never forget the courage a young man mustered as he faced tragedy, she said.
State police in Ebensburg and Cambria County Coroner Dennis Kwiatkowski on Wednesday blamed suicide bomber Bradley Kollar, 40, of Hastings for setting off “some type of explosive device” at the home of William and Linda Shaner and their three sons at 882 Kepshire Road in Clearfield at 8:52 a.m. Tuesday.
“I didn't know what had happened ... just a huge, huge explosion,” Fox said. “I ran across (Route 36), and there was Ryan Shaner, Bill's teenage son, standing in the middle of the wreckage of their home ... just outside in the cold, standing in his shorts, with no shirt, standing over, trying to soothe his father, who was still buried from the neck down in debris.
“(Ryan) was all bloody, too, covered in dust, with glass shards still sticking out all over his body,” Fox said.
“Ryan was on his cellphone calling for help for his dad, and no matter what his dad or I told him — that he needed to get away from there — Ryan refused in order to stand by his dad until help arrived,” she said.
“I sent him a note today just to tell him he has the courage and strength of 1,000 young men,” Fox said.
Kollar, a one-armed man who was obsessed with explosives and sold homemade fireworks, deliberately set off a bomb at the Shaners' two-story home, blowing it to pieces, authorities said.
The blast injured Shaner and his son, who was home because there was a two-hour snow delay at Cambria Heights High School.
“We consider it an intentional action, but we're still investigating a possible motive,” Trooper John Matchik said. “I can tell you we believe at this time that the suspect targeted this family for this attack.”
Investigators said they could not confirm that the suicide mission was taken against the family as retaliation for turning over evidence against Kollar to police in a criminal investigation.
Matchik described Kollar and William Shaner as “acquaintances.”
Kollar, who was free after posting $20,000 bond, killed himself on the day he was to report to the Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg to be sentenced for setting up what police described as a “functional” methamphetamine lab and operating a “chop shop,” reselling or disassembling stolen vehicles and equipment.
“That's a load of nonsense,” said his father, John Andrew Kollar, 64, who is awaiting trial for allegedly running the chop shop with his son. Bradley Kollar was “a pretty good boy,” his father said.
Police were able to conduct preliminary interviews with Shaner, 44, who was transferred from Altoona Hospital to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he was listed in critical condition. Shaner, who was pulled from the rubble, was treated overnight in Altoona Hospital.
Kollar, who lost his left arm in an explosives accident years ago, made fireworks and sold them, according to District Attorney Kelly Callihan.
Kollar had telephoned William Shaner just before the blast, but police do not know the details of that conversation, Matchik said.
State and federal investigators collected evidence from the blast scene to be sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives laboratory in Beltsville, Md., to determine what explosives Kollar used.
Fox said she was preparing for work at her beauty salon in Patton and getting her kids ready for school when the blast rocked her home.
“I really can't describe it appropriately — it was just so terrible. I never want to see that again. ... I picture that's what it is like in Iraq or Afghanistan. I thought a car slammed into my own home,” she said.
Fox looked outside and saw a yellow plume of dust and straw. She dialed 911, thinking a nearby barn had blown up, she said. As she ran to help, she realized the Shaner home had been leveled.
And then she saw “the hulk” of Kollar's pickup truck, with part of a bloody body inside, she said.
“I never, ever want to go through anything like that again. Everyone around here knows everyone, and we're all praying for Linda and Bill and the kids,” she said.
She is collecting clothing for the Shaners at her salon, Fox's Hairazr Salon, 711 Fifth Ave., Patton.
“The community is really coming out to assist the family with some donations of clothes already, and people are donating personal care things like toothbrushes and even gift cards. That's what type of community we really are, where we'll step up for someone in need,” Fox said.
“But it will be a long time before anyone forgets this. I know I never will,” she said.
Callihan said Shaner's name is not listed in any court documents related to the charges against Kollar. She declined to comment on whether Shaner was a confidential informant.
Shaner is serving a probation sentence out of Blair County on a theft charge, records show.
Callihan said her office filed a petition last June to revoke Kollar's bond, based on his mental status and his discussions with a fellow inmate in the Cambria County Jail about trying to kill himself by blowing himself up.
According to court documents, authorities filed the petition against Kollar after receiving information that he built a bomb, “using 1,600 pounds of an explosive fuel, believed to contain either ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate.”
The suicide attempt failed because of a malfunctioning detonator, according to court records.
The bond revocation was denied, despite a tape recording of that conversation obtained in the lockup, Callihan said.
State police Lt. Robert Clark said Kollar lost his left arm in an accident with explosives years ago.
Callihan said Kollar was expected to be sentenced to jail on Monday. She said she kept her distance from the case because her brother, attorney Arthur McQuillan, represented Kollar.
His underground meth lab was found when police raided his family's properties at 721 Murphy Springs Road and 210 Baker St. in Hastings on March 6, 2012, court records show. Hastings is about 5 miles from Patton.
Police allege Kollar and his father ran the chop shop on their property, where officers found a stolen front-end loader, two skid loaders, an all-terrain vehicle and a U-Haul trailer holding boxes of commercial-grade fireworks.
The son pleaded guilty to one count in the meth lab case and one count in the chop shop case, court records show.
Charges are pending against his father, who remains free on $10,000 bond.
Paul Peirce is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.