Officials: Fatal Butler County crash difficult to prevent
An accident that killed two young brothers in Butler County begs the question of what authorities could have done to prevent it, but there's no easy answer, officials said Thursday.
“There was dangerous and unusual weather that was not in the forecast at all, just a perfect storm of everything going wrong,” said Steve Bicehouse, director of the county's 911 call center.
Mourners set up a small memorial with stuffed animals at the site of the crash in Connoquenessing that killed Liam Bintrim, 3, and Declan McCullough, who would have turned 1 on Friday.
Their mother, Elisabeth McCullough, 32, of Harmony was recovering from minor injuries. Police said her Dodge Durango slid on icy Lower Harmony Road and slammed into a tree.
Theirs was among 73 reported accidents the 911 center handled in three hours on Wednesday morning, the busiest day since Bicehouse became director nearly a year ago.
“It was very chaotic. We had to call in extra dispatchers,” Bicehouse said. “The only thing people on the roads could do was slow down or stop, and that was not always possible.”
PennDOT and other road crews were on standby, but it's nearly impossible to promptly salt roadways that ice over abruptly, said Jim Struzzi, a PennDOT spokesman.
“Freezing rain is very difficult to predict. You cannot really salt in advance. ... All of the salt will just wash away,” he said.
Police said Liam and Declan died when the vehicle's roof crushed them, though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Durango roof its top safety rating.
“Cars are designed to handle a lot of accidents. This is a freakish accident,” said Blake Ashby, an accident reconstruction expert from Grand Rapids, Mich.
“You could say the roof should have been stronger. But if the roof is too strong, it makes a rollover much more likely. It might have prevented this accident, but a heavier roof would have caused 100 others.”
Although police said McCullough did not exceed the speed limit, Ashby emphasized that slowing down is the best way to prevent an accident on icy roads.
“Many SUV drivers do not understand that four-wheel-drive vehicles do not stop any more quickly than a two-wheel-drive car,” he said.
A woman identifying herself as a friend of McCullough's is soliciting donations for the family online. She raised more than $5,000 by Thursday afternoon, according to her webpage. She could not be reached for comment.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.