Rock injuries prove motorists' vulnerabilities
HARRISBURG — A rock-throwing attack that left an Ohio woman with serious injuries shows that motorists are vulnerable to targeting from a highway bridge or overpass.
As middle school language arts teacher Sharon Budd, 52, recovers in a central Pennsylvania hospital, some may be wondering whether they face the same risk — and the answer is yes.
PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said such attacks are rare, but the highway agency has begun evaluating the incident with state police to see whether there's some sort of action they can take.
“In populated areas with sidewalks or in areas near playgrounds, interstate and expressway overpasses usually have fences,” Kirkpatrick said. “This incident happened in a rural area where there are no sidewalks, and we will have to determine the best way to deal with these senseless acts.”
Police said Budd was a passenger in a vehicle traveling on Interstate 80 near Milton when two young boys and two brothers in their late teens stopped on a bridge, and two of them began throwing rocks at cars.
One of those rocks struck Budd and caused severe head injuries.
The Akron Beacon Journal reported on Friday that she had 13 hours of facial reconstruction a day earlier and had lost the use of one eye. Her husband told the newspaper that surgeons had to remove a portion of her brain.
Randy Budd said an effort has begun to fence in that section of overpass.
Police said they noticed a vehicle driving slowly past the scene twice, traced it to a nearby home and obtained confessions from the two young boys.
Brothers Dylan Lahr, 17, and Brett Lahr, 18, of New Columbia are charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, throwing a missile at an occupied vehicle, reckless endangerment and possessing instruments of crime. Their lawyer, Bruce Manchester, said they deny the allegations.
“It simply becomes a question of fact, ultimately for the jury, who, if any, among the four — the Lahr brothers that have been charged and the other two young men that have not been charged — threw the boulder or boulders. Or rocks, however it's been deemed,” Manchester said.
Last month, a woman got glass in her eyes when a chunk of asphalt crashed through her windshield in Festus, Missouri. About a dozen vehicles were damaged by rocks thrown onto I-70 in Columbus, Ohio, in March. In October, three kids were seen running off after several vehicles were struck in Buffalo. And in August, two boys were accused of throwing rocks off an I-5 overpass in Woodburn, Oregon.