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4 dead in 'horrific' Armstrong County crash

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

A speeding car carrying two Apollo teenagers and a third from Rural Valley slammed head-on into an Avonmore woman's car, killing her and all three teens.

Authorities said three other people were still listed in critical condition Thursday night. The crash occurred in South Bend Township, near the Indiana County line, at 10:20 p.m. Wednesday.

“It is the most horrific crash I have ever seen in my 30 years,” Armstrong County Sheriff Bill Rupert said from the crash scene on Route 156 near Gobblers Run Road. “The Mustang split in half on impact, and the debris field was enormous.”

Authorities identified the victims as Brandon James Sulava, 19, of Apollo, Brandon Sauers Barr, 15, of Apollo, Brieyonah Marie Painter, 18, of Rural Valley and Crystal Kay Kelley, 41, of Avonmore.

Police said the teens were in a Ford Mustang driven by Sulava that veered into the path of a Chevrolet Lumina driven by Kelley.

“Speed definitely played a factor in the crash,” said Armstrong County Coroner Brian Myers.

Passengers in Kelley's car who were airlifted to UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland were Kelley's husband, Robert Edward Kelley Jr., 33, of Avonmore, her brother, Kent G. Smith, 34, of Elderton, and Smith's girlfriend, Kristy Ann Schall, 35, of Shelocta.

All were in critical condition on Thursday night, said hospital spokeswoman Andrea Stanford.

A family that lives on the corner of Gobblers Run Road heard the crash and called 911.

“My husband ran out there — it was bad,” said Ranelle Barry. “I can't imagine what those families are going through. Somebody's babies are gone.”

State police Trooper Dan Kesten said Sulava was speeding when he lost control of the car while traveling west on Route 156.

“Kelley was just driving along when Sulava's car entered her path,” Kesten said. “There was nothing she could do.”

Grief counseling was offered at the Apollo-Ridge School District, where Sulava graduated and Barr attended school.

“Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with all of those affected by this terrible tragedy,” Apollo-Ridge Superintendent Matthew Curci said.

Counselors also will be available through next week at Lenape Technical School in Manor Township, where Sulava and Painter studied law enforcement information technology before graduating last year.

Letters are being sent to the homes of seniors at the school who might have known Sulava and Painter, said Administrative Director Dawn Kocher-Taylor.

“They were both good students at this school,” she said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext 1319, or Staff writer Brad Pedersen contributed to this report.



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