Crash victims' spouses immediately recognized cars
Whitney Helba got worried when her husband, Gary L. Helba II, didn't text or call after he left work on Monday night.
“She usually talked to him every day after he leaves work. She could not reach him on Monday,” said Helba's father, Gary Helba Sr. of Weirton, W.Va. “She became worried, went up (Interstate) 279 toward Cranberry, where he works. She called me and said she saw Gary's wrecked car. She knew it was his car because of all of the West Virginia Mountaineer football stickers.”
Gary Helba and the driver of another car, Amy Tua, 45, of Harmony, died in a head-on collision near Camp Horne Road in Ohio Township. Police say Tua was, for unknown reasons, driving north in the southbound lanes. They died at the scene.
Tua was returning from work and had stopped to visit her mother in Bellevue. She called her husband, Kenneth Tua, to let him know she was on her way home.
“Two or three hours later, she was still not home. Ken watched the television news and recognized her car,” said Rebecca Johnston of Imperial, Amy Tua's stepmother. Johnston said Tua was epileptic.
“Why she crossed that median, I don't know. She did not drink or take drugs. It had to be a medical problem,” Johnston said.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Tua's death accidental and that she died of head injuries. Helba's autopsy was not complete late Tuesday afternoon.
Helba was one of three children and grew up in Weirton. He worked at the Verizon call center in Cranberry, his father said.
Helba's family owns a small tax preparation business, and he was working toward certification as a tax preparer, the elder Helba said.
Whitney and Gary Helba were married just one year ago, he said.
Helba's two passions were West Virginia University football and Star Wars, his father said.
“He had season tickets to the Mountaineers' games. With Star Wars, he was a big fan. He had a Star Wars collection. There was not a model and figurine that he did not have,” the elder Helba said.
He described his son as an extrovert.
“We would go to the lake and go camping when he was a kid. He'd make friends very quickly. He was also sympathetic to people, often to a fault,” Helba's father said.
Tua and her husband had been married for 17 years, according to a family friend who answered the phone at the couple's Harmony home.
A social worker, Tua was a graduate of Thiel College in Greenville and worked for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, her stepmother said.
“She was very well-liked. She was a very strong girl. She loved working with children,” Johnston said.
Tua had worked at the department since 1997, said Marc Cherna, the department's director. She was a caseworker for children in foster care.
“She was a caseworker who was dedicated and made a difference in people's lives. Her loss is a real tragedy for many people,” Cherna said.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at email@example.com.