Hampton officials urged PennDOT for years to improve site of fatal bus/car crash

| Friday, March 14, 2014, 8:45 a.m.

Hampton officials urged PennDOT for years to improve a busy Route 8 intersection where a West Deer man died on Friday when a school bus crushed his car during the morning rush hour, the township council president said.

A $2.8 million project to make the intersection at East Hardies Road safer is scheduled to start in two days.

“People are taking chances (at that intersection) they wouldn't have taken if they had the proper visibility,” council President Victor Son said.

John Krauland Jr., 28, of West Deer died when his car was smashed beneath a school bus that was struck while turning left from southbound Route 8 onto East Hardies Road.

PennDOT will add turn lanes and upgrade traffic signals at the intersection.

The unidentified bus driver was preparing to pick up students and take them to Eden Hall Upper Elementary School about 8 a.m., according to a Pine-Richland School District statement.

First responders said Krauland, an employee of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, was talking to investigators when they arrived, but his condition worsened once crews rolled the bus off the car. He died at 8:47 a.m. in Allegheny General Hospital. Bishop David Zubik rushed to the hospital to be with Krauland's wife, Diane, and family members.

More than 25,000 motorists pass through the intersection daily, according to PennDOT.

Not having a left turn lane or signal means motorists stack up on Route 8 while waiting for a clear path to turn, Son said. Some motorists turn after the light turns red because they're trapped in the intersection, he added. Hampton police Officer Mark Pagacino said there have been no serious accidents there.

“Most people know you have to be careful at the intersection,” Pagacino said.

The bus driver turned into the path of a Dodge Ram pickup headed north on Route 8 just after 7:30 a.m., said Allegheny County police Sgt. Scott Scherer. The bus was hit at the entrance door and veered up onto Krauland's Nissan Altima, which was on East Hardies waiting at the light. Krauland's car was shoved backward into the front of a BMW sedan. Scherer did not identify the other drivers.

Scherer said it will be up to the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office to decide whether to file charges. He said the bus driver, working for Monark Student Transportation Corp. in Hampton, and the truck driver underwent tests for drugs and alcohol.

The bus driver and the BMW driver were not injured. The truck driver was treated in an area hospital for injuries that Scherer said were not life-threatening.

“It's a shame that there's someone who's no longer on this earth. It's been a really rough day,” Monark owner Mark Schmitt said.

Inspection records for the bus were not immediately available from state police, who inspect school buses. Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration showed that Monark had a few minor driver or vehicle inspection violations in the past couple of years; the exact number was not available.

Son said PennDOT has been working on intersections in the Route 8 corridor as funding becomes available. The township in 2004 identified nine intersections on Route 8 that officials believe need to be made safer. A PennDOT spokesman did not immediately have detailed information about the projects.

Zubik said Krauland's supervisors had nothing but praise for the Slippery Rock University graduate who had worked as loss control coordinator in the diocesan Office for Parish Property Planning and Development since January 2011. Krauland visited parishes and schools to conduct safety inspections and respond to complaints about everything from cracked sidewalks to poor lighting and general security concerns, Zubik said.

Krauland, who married his wife, Diane, a Seneca Valley School District math teacher, in 2010, was deeply involved in St. Victor's parish. His pastor, the Rev. Charles Speicher, said the young man always brought his grandmother to services in the church, where he was a lector and eucharistic minister and taught seventh-grade CCD classes.

“He was dedicated to the safety of everyone,” said Zubik. “... May this tragedy become an important lesson for all of us to stop and take time to appreciate the people we live and work with.”

Krauland's friends and colleagues at the Pittsburgh Diocese gathered to remember him in song and prayer at a special service in diocesan headquarters Downtown.

Kit Durrett and Ben Limbaugh, friends who played high school football with Krauland, stood quietly, their eyes brimming with tears as Zubik led the service.

“I met him when I moved here in sixth grade,” Durrett said. “We were friends and played football together in high school. What a sweet and caring person he was. It didn't matter who it was, he invited you in to be friends.”

Staff writer Deborah Deasy contributed. Bill Vidonic and Debra Erdley are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

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