Probe continues in Highlands’ student’s death |

Probe continues in Highlands’ student’s death

Authorities spent Thursday trying to determine why a Fawn teenager ran into traffic and was struck by a truck along a stretch of Freeport Road in which views of both directions are unobstructed.

Erica Maloney, the 13-year-old Fawn girl and eighth-grader at Highlands Middle School who was hit by a tri-axle dump truck Wednesday evening, died early Thursday morning at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

In light of the tragedy, Highlands Superintendent Randall Kahler said the district would evaluate its policies.

No crossing guards were on duty and the 15 mph school zone warning lights were not activated, but the accident occurred at about 5:40 p.m — about three hours after school let out.

There was, however, a junior high football game and a soccer game played after school on the middle school grounds. The football game ended at about 5 p.m., according to Highlands Athletic Director Bill Heasley.

Heasley said the district does not hire crossing guards to stop traffic after middle school activities, and that the crossing guard shifts and warning lights usually end at about 4 p.m. after the final bus has left school.

“That’s something our safety committee could take a look at,” Kahler said, referring to crossing guards. “Obviously, you look at what has happened. We would like to prevent these things from happening.”

School officials and police noted that there is no crosswalk where Erica attempted to cross the road, nor would there have been a crossing guard posted at that spot. The nearest crosswalk is about a block away at California Avenue.

Kahler, who has been with Highlands for 14 years, said he could not recall another student being struck by a vehicle along Freeport Road.

“I would think this was a very unfortunate accident,” he said.

“There hasn’t been a crossing guard at those types of events for the last 21 years,” said Harrison Police Chief Mike Klein. “I would be hard pressed to make a point that it could have been prevented by having a crossing guard out there.

“You still have kids crossing between crosswalks and between where the crossing guards are. … You cannot preempt every accident.”

Klein said the truck driver from New Castle, whose name he and Allegheny County Homicide Lt. John Brennan would not release, likely would not be charged.

Klein and Brennan said the driver was not speeding in the 35 mph zone in front of the middle school and there were no indications that the driver was intoxicated or otherwise impaired. The speed limit along that stretch drops to 15 mph only at the start and end of the school day.

Erica, her younger sister and a friend apparently were at a middle school football game at Highlands Golden Rams Stadium behind the middle school Wednesday afternoon. After the game, they crossed Broadview Boulevard and walked onto the narrow grassy strip that separates it from the parallel Freeport Road. Klein said Erica, for unknown reasons, ran into traffic on Freeport Road, a four-lane road. Heasley said school officials were not aware of where Erica was attempting to go.

Klein said Erica made it halfway across the second lane when it appeared she tried to turn back, and the truck struck her.

She died at 6:30 a.m. Thursday as a result of blunt-force trauma to the head, according to the Allegheny County Coroner’s office.

Middle School Assistant Principal Shauna Zukowski said she could not disclose any details about Erica or activities she enjoyed.

“We sent our condolences to the family and had counselors available all day,” Zukowski said. “They’ll continue to be available throughout the week.”

Brennan said Allegheny County police will continue to investigate the incident.

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