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Police say drivers in fatal Washington County crash not belted in

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 9:54 a.m.
Stephen Breese, who died in a Washington County car crash on Christmas night, is pictured with his wife, Katherine, and their daughter, Addison Rae. The mother and daughter were taken to Pittsburgh hospitals for treatment.Credit: Submitted by Breese family.

The baby girl's face lit up when her father walked into the room, as if on cue, during a family gathering this week in Washington County.

“I'd just said to his wife, ‘Is Addison mommy's girl or daddy's girl?' ” said Vickie Breese, recalling the conversation on Monday with her nephew's wife, Katherine, about their daughter born in April. “She said, ‘I don't know. But she lights up when he comes in the room.'

“Just then, Steve walked in, and she lit up. That's something I will always think about.”

Stephen Breese, 28, of Washington died on Christmas night when a Jeep driven by Shari L. Cox, 46, of Prosperity crossed the center line on Route 18 in Morris about 6:30 p.m. and slammed head-on into the GMC sport utility vehicle he was driving with his family inside.

Cox died at the scene. Breese died in Washington Hospital, Coroner Timothy Warco said.

Neither was wearing a seat belt, state police said on Thursday.

Investigators were awaiting results of a blood test on Cox to help determine what caused the collision.

Paramedics flew Katherine Breese, 30, and the couple's daughter to UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland and to Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville. Katherine Breese was wearing a seat belt, police said, and the girl was in a child safety seat.

Addison Rae was doing fine, though her mother has broken ribs, a concussion and other injuries, said Stephen Breese's uncle, Jeffrey Breese, 56, of Claysville.

The family was on their way to visit Stephen Breese's father, Keith, at his home in Prosperity.

One of Stephen Breese's brothers arrived at the crash scene but was rerouted without seeing the vehicles, Jeffrey Breese said.

“He had no idea until later,” Breese said.

Stephen Breese graduated in 2003 from McGuffey High School, where he played football and wrestled on a team coached by his uncle, an assistant wrestling coach at Washington & Jefferson College.

“He was just a great kid,” Jeffrey Breese said. “But we are going to say that no matter what. He really was, though.”

Stephen Breese worked for R.G. Johnson Co., a Washington-based construction company that works on mining projects. He had been pouring concrete at Consol Energy's Bailey Mine on a recent assignment.

“We were just talking about it Monday night,” Jeffrey Breese said, noting the family gathering at his mother's house in Claysville.

The family's loss was sinking in on Thursday.

“It will get worse the more you think about it,” Jeffrey Breese said, his voice cracking.

Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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