Father, son killed in East Huntingdon crash

| Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 6:21 a.m.

A father and son driving to work early Tuesday morning died in an accident at an East Huntingdon intersection that residents described as dangerous.

Drivers often speed on Route 981, just beyond Southmoreland Senior High School, where it merges with Ruffsdale-Alverton and Substation roads in a “W” shape, neighbor Gerald Eicher said.

“You can't see the traffic coming from the high school until the very last minute,” Eicher said. “You just kind of hold your breath and go.”

William Ray Leighty Jr., 53, of East Huntingdon and William Ray Leighty III, 29, of Connellsville were traveling north on Route 981. They approached the intersection about 4:30 a.m. in a Chevrolet Avalanche pickup truck when another driver rounded the bend on Ruffsdale-Alverton Road and the vehicles collided, according to state police at Greensburg.

The other motorist, Robert William VanDyke, 61, of East Huntingdon, who was driving a Ford Ranger pickup, was not injured, police said.

Eicher, who said he often uses back roads to avoid the intersection, said he has contacted PennDOT suggesting four-way stop signs or better sight lines. Neither vehicle in Tuesday's crash had a stop sign.

Suzanne and Richard Brown, who live across Crabtree Lane from William R. Leighty Jr., said the family moved there about six or seven years ago.

“They are hard-working, blue-collar people, really nice people,” Suzanne Brown said.

“He was always asking if we needed help with anything,” Richard Brown said.

William Leighty III routinely picked up his father to drive to work together, neighbors said.

Tim Dillinger, who lives near the crash site in Alverton, said he worked with the men at Versa-Fab Inc. in Upper Burrell. The father worked as a powder coater for about a year after previously working at United Defense in Uniontown. His son had worked for about three to four months as a laborer in the fabrication shop that makes electrical components.

The elder Leighty's wife called the shop Tuesday to ask if he had made it in for his shift, which begins at 5:30 a.m., Dillinger said.

The Browns said William Leighty Jr. and his wife frequently played in the yard with their grandchildren. “Our prayers go out to the family,” Suzanne Brown said.

William Leighty Jr. was pronounced dead at the scene. William Leighty III died at Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant. Neither wore a seat belt and both were ejected, police said.

Frank Kapr Funeral Home in Scottdale is handling arrangements for the younger Leighty. Martucci Funeral Home in Connellsville is in charge of arrangements for his father. Attempts to contact the victims' family members were not successful. A woman who answered the door at the home of the elder Leighty declined to comment.

Coroner Ken Bacha said autopsies determined both men died of multiple blunt-force trauma.

Dillinger said southbound vehicles on Route 981 sometimes go airborne across railroad tracks before the intersection with Ruffsdale-Alverton Road. “They're sliding sideways sometimes,” he said.

George Miller, a foreman and machinist at Grandview Manufacturing near the intersection, said the road was closed when he was driving to work about 6:30 a.m. until about 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Crossing the intersection from the direction being used by the victims is treacherous, he said.

“It's blind if you drive up this way and try to make that turn,” he said.

Staff writers Paul Peirce and Karl Polacek contributed. Peirce can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com. Polacek can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538. Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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