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Ex-Washington Township crossing guard hit by car: Ordeal scarier than 'Nam

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Edgar Jones earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam for saving nine members of his platoon trapped in the crossfire of two groups of enemy soldiers, but he testified on Monday that it wasn't nearly as frightening as the encounter he had with a motorist 42 years later in Fayette County.

Jones testified he was a crossing guard at Marion Elementary School in Washington Township when he saw a red Fiero speeding toward him after he had stopped traffic to allow a bus to exit the school grounds.

“He was really booking,” said Jones in the aggravated assault trial for the man police said was driving the car, Robert E. Welch, 34, of 160 First Ave., New Eagle.

Welch was traveling 45 mph through a 15 mph school zone on Perry Avenue at 8:34 a.m. Jan. 3, 2008, when he hit Jones, Washington Township police Officer Rich Taylor said in a criminal complaint.

Jones testified he was in the middle of the road, holding up a red stop sign when he saw the Fiero. He testified he moved to the right, into the Fiero's lane of travel, as he tried to get to the side of the road.

“I was going to try to stop the vehicle and let him know he was in a school zone,” Jones testified.

He can recall nothing after that until paramedics were loading him onto a medical helicopter to be flown to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Jones was treated for two fractured ribs and a dislocated left shoulder, and received 36 stitches in his forehead and 16 stitches in his left knee. He was hospitalized for three days and went to physical therapy for two months.

Jones testified he never went back to his job as a crossing guard, which he had held for two years.

“That threw more of a scare into me than Vietnam,” Jones told the jury. “At least in Vietnam, I could fight back.”

Outside the courtroom, Jones said he was an Army infantryman in Vietnam in 1966 when he and nine others in his unit were trapped in enemy crossfire from machine guns and rifles. A sergeant, he was put in charge of the group when two higher-ranking sergeants were killed.

He earned a Bronze Star for valor, he said, when he directed his men to split into two groups to sneak behind the enemy. The men fired phosphorous grenades into two “nests” of Viet Cong soldiers that killed 21 of them, he said.

Welch testified that his brakes were working the morning of the accident until he entered the school zone.

“I went to slow down, hit the brakes, and the brakes went all the way to the floor,” Welch testified. “It didn't even slow down.”

He testified he did not see Jones. Welch testified he went around the school bus, which was across both lanes of traffic, and assumed his car had struck the bus as he drove past.

The brakes began to work again after he left the school zone and pumped them several times, Welch testified. He said he stopped, then drove back to the scene to speak with police.

Taylor testified Welch told him the brakes had failed, but the car was not impounded or inspected. Welch testified he took the car home, bled the brakes and had no problems afterward.

“They had a lot of air in them,” Welch testified, noting that a few weeks before the accident, the brakes had been replaced. “After I bled them, it never went out again.”

Jurors are to begin deliberations on Tuesday morning before Judge Steve Leskinen.

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com

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