2 pedestrians die, as icy roads lead to accidents throughout Western Pa.
A vehicle slid off an ice-coated Aleppo road Saturday, killing a woman who was walking her dogs — one of two pedestrian fatalities in an ice storm that caused hundreds of accidents throughout Western Pennsylvania and made roads impassable for hours.
The vehicle pinned Kimberly Moran, 49, of Aleppo against a fiberglass electrical box, Ohio Township police Chief Norbert Micklos said. She died at the scene.
“I’ve never seen this in my life,” Micklos said. “It’s just the craziest, freakiest thing. It’s tragic.”
In Armstrong County, Gary Beigay, 68, died when his van slid on an icy street and ran over him.
Rain began falling about 5:30 a.m. and froze immediately because the air and ground temperatures were below freezing, the National Weather Service in Moon said.
“It was probably less than a 10th of an inch of ice, but it was clinging over every single crevice in the pavement, making a solid sheet,” said meteorologist Tim Axford. “A difference of just a degree or two makes all the difference.”
In Allegheny County, dispatchers fielded just under 3,700 calls between 5 and 11 a.m., county officials said. By comparison, in the same time period Dec. 27, dispatchers took 30 calls. PennDOT reduced the speed limit on major highways — including Interstates 79, 376, 279 and 579 — to 45 mph for several hours.
In Beaver County, dispatchers reported 92 accidents in the same time period. Butler County had more than 40 accidents beginning about 7 a.m., dispatchers said. Washington County dispatchers said they took more than 500 emergency calls between 5 and 10 a.m.
Westmoreland County received about 80 accident reports by late Saturday morning, according to Department of Public Safety Supervisor Ed Milliron. Roughly a third involved injuries, he said.
Fayette County Emergency Management Agency Supervisor Muriel Grant said almost 30 accidents had been reported by the time she got to work at 7 a.m., and the wrecks continued for the next few hours, though there were no fatalities.
“We were so busy, it was ridiculous,” Grant said.
The Somerset County E-911 Communications Center received 26 calls about accidents Saturday morning, plus 10 calls for vehicles that had slid off the road, according to dispatcher Geraldine Budzina. Several crashes resulted in injuries.
Pittsburgh Public Works crews began preparing for the ice about 4 a.m., according to a statement from Katie O’Malley, city spokeswoman, with 34 trucks dispatched to treat bridges, ramps and higher-elevation areas. Crews did not pretreat dry roads because rain would have washed away the deicing material.
Micklos said investigators are looking into the accident that killed Moran, but it’s unlikely the driver, who was not injured and whom police did not identify, would be charged. The vehicle slid down Sewickley Ridge Drive at 8:15 a.m. and struck Moran, Micklos said.
“She’s a very good person. She’s our only daughter,” said Moran’s mother, Judy Kokolis of Duncansville. “She was a big lover of animals, and those dogs were her life.”
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office has scheduled an autopsy for Sunday.
The accident pinned one of Moran’s dogs under the vehicle, and it was taken for treatment, Micklos said. The other dog ran away, he said. Neighbors searched for it Saturday evening.
Moran bathed dogs in the Larry’s Laundromutt grooming shop in Edgeworth, owner Jeanie Barrett said. Moran and her husband, Jeffrey, had adopted the dogs within the past six weeks, Barrett added.
“We never heard her say anything bad about anybody. She just didn’t have that in her. She was a really kind person,” said Barrett.
In Apollo, Beigay, had just parked his van in front of his secondhand store on First Street about 7:30 a.m., when it started to slide on the ice, according to Armstrong County Chief Deputy Coroner Robert Bellas.
Beigay was standing behind the van, and witnesses saw it roll over him, Apollo police Officer Ron Baustert said.
Bellas said Beigay died of chest injuries. His death has been ruled an accident.
No one was hurt when a Shaler salt truck slid on ice, flipped and crashed into a house in the 100 block of Weaver Drive, township police Lt. Sean Frank said.
Residents were able to remain in the home despite structural damage, he said. The driver will not be cited.
No one suffered serious injuries in an eight-car pileup on Route 65 at Cross Street in Leetsdale, police said.
Trib Total Media staff writers Chuck Biedka, Jacob Tierney, Bobby Cherry and Adam Smeltz contributed to this report. Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621.