Reality sets in for girl’s family
Authorities and family wrestled for answers Thursday after a Fawn teenager darted into the path of a dump truck on a bustling Harrison road in front of her school.
Erica Maloney, 13, died at 6:30 a.m. yesterday at Allegheny General Hospital, North Side, about a dozen hours after the tri-axle truck hit her on Freeport Road.
Dozens of classmates gathered last night for a candlelight vigil to remember the eighth-grader, known for her quick smile.
“It’s just a dream. That’s what you think,” said eighth-grader Bethany Bogert, 14, reading from a eulogy she’d written. “Then reality sets in.”
Allegheny County Police Detective Robert Keenan said witnesses saw Erica run across the four-lane road, advancing into the far lanes before trying to return to the curb. On her way back to the curb, she was hit by the truck.
“It appears to be a tragic accident,” Harrison police Chief Michael Klein said.
The girl was thrown onto the hood of the dump truck, driven by a New Castle man police did not identify, witnesses said. Allegheny County homicide Lt. John Brennan said the man likely would not be charged.
He 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.
No crossing guards were on duty and the 15 mph school zone warning lights were not activated. The accident occurred at about 5:40 p.m. — about three hours after school let out. A junior high football game and soccer game had been played at the middle school, officials said.
There was no crosswalk, and no crossing guards would have been on duty at the spot where Erica ventured into traffic, school officials said.
Still, the district will evaluate its policies, Superintendent Randall Kahler said.
“Obviously, you look at what has happened. We would like to prevent these things from happening,” he said.
Officials 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.
The Allegheny County Coroner’s Office determined the cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head.
Teachers informed students yesterday morning of Erica’s death. During counseling sessions, several of the girl’s classmates planned a tribute to their friend.
A flower-laden cross was placed a few yards from where Erica was struck.
Two dozen girls gathered shortly after 6 p.m. yesterday, slowly forming a circle around the small, white cross. Many brought flowers, stuffed animals and other mementos.
Several greeting cards were passed around, and the teens wrote messages to Erica.
After lighting candles, each girl read an excerpt from a poem, “How do you spell friendship?” Each letter in friendship denoted the word’s meaning, with “P” encouraging friends to “pray for each other.”
Samantha Krivak remembered befriending Erica when she was a new student and the two were in fifth grade.
“I spent most of the morning crying,” she said.”I knew her really well.”
“She could never hurt anyone,” said 13-year-old Jasmine Sable. “She was really sweet.”