A youth sports coach put a 15-year-old girl behind the wheel of a van and had four young boys attempt to push it off a sheet of ice at a Pittsburgh recreation center earlier this year, a move that left one of the boys pinned under the van seriously injured, police said.
Elliot Freeman, 29, told police he and a van full of children arrived at the center for a football game, and the van became stuck on the frozen parking lot.
He now faces 29 charges, including 15 felonies, for assaulting and endangering the children, according to court documents.
The incident happened Jan. 25 in the rear parking lot of the West Penn Recreation Center in Pittsburgh’s Polish Hill neighborhood.
Freeman said they were running late for the game, and he left the issue of the stuck van until after, according to the criminal complaint against him. The game ended about 8:20 p.m.
Still unable to move the van off the ice, Freeman instructed a 15-year-old girl to get into the driver seat, and he asked four of the 11 boys in the van to get out and push, police wrote in the complaint.
Freeman said he gave the teenage girl basic driving instruction – accelerator, brake, gear shift – and told her to put the van into reverse while the boys pushed, according to the complaint. He told her to give it some gas, but the van lurched forward, catching the boys “off guard,” he told police.
Three of the boys got out of the way, but one fell and was hit by the van, police wrote.
Freeman got the other children – six boys and one girl – out of the van and directed the group to the edge of the lot, police said. He checked on the injured child and found that he was conscious and alert. The boy said he was stuck and having trouble breathing, according to the complaint.
Paramedics arrived, lifted the van off the injured child and transported him to UPMC Children’s Hospital, police said.
Investigators found the left rear tire nearly tread-less, with cords exposed in three places, according to the complaint. The right rear tire was equally bare, police said, and the van would not have passed inspection.
Freeman was charged Tuesday with aggravated assault, aggravated assault by a vehicle, allowing an unauthorized person to drive, 13 counts of reckless endangerment and 13 counts of child endangerment.