ShareThis Page
News

Trucker recalls night girl,10, was killed

| Saturday, Dec. 30, 2006, 12:00 p.m.

Truck driver James Nabozny was headed south on Freeport Road in O'Hara early Sept. 30 when he saw what he assumed was a deer on the side of the dark road.

But as his tractor-trailer crested a small rise, the headlights illuminated a terrifying sight: Children were scattered across the four-lane road, running in all directions.

Nabozny, a driver for Daily Juice Products Inc. in Verona, slammed on his brakes and tried to steer the big rig away from the children, but he couldn't avoid Leona Ford, 10, of Garfield. She was standing on the center yellow line at 12:34 a.m., when the truck struck and killed her.

Three adult chaperones were walking with the children along the unlit four-lane road, which lacks sidewalks and shoulders, shortly after the group missed a Port Authority bus home from a birthday party at FunFest in nearby Harmar. They were held for court Friday on charges of reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of children.

"I didn't have anywhere to go," Nabozny testified yesterday at the preliminary hearings of Melissa Cooks, 37, Eric Martin, 43 and Almikka George, 28. "The kids were running left, right, straight, back. They were everywhere."

A 14-year-old girl who was with the birthday party group testified in Pittsburgh Municipal Court that the group missed its bus home to Garfield shortly after midnight. Another bus driver told them they could either wait for about 45 minutes for another bus or walk to Waterworks Mall near Aspinwall to catch another bus.

Two people in the group had cell phones, the girl testified, but she didn't see any adults call for an alternate ride home or call the parents of any of the children. The kids ranged in age from 8 to 17, she said.

When the children and adults were walking in two separate groups several feet apart on a stretch of Freeport Road between the Hulton Bridge and Powers Run Road, Cooks spotted Nabozny's tractor trailer and screamed for the kids to get out of way, the 14-year-old girl testified. But some children became scared and began running across the road.

An elementary school teacher who was traveling behind Nabozny said he heard the tractor-trailer's brakes screeching and saw the group of children.

"A lot of them were on the center line and they were running across all lanes screaming," said the teacher, Robert Ruffolo, of Bridgeville.

Cooks' defense attorney, Richard Narvin, said it's easy to criticize his client and the other adults there that night for not calling someone to pick up the children and give them a ride home.

"This is a classic case of the privileged in this county thinking that everyone has a car or has access to a car and can get someone to pick them up at that time of night," Narvin said. "That's not the case when you're poor. Then you have to take the bus."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me