Three killed, another injured in head-on crash
All three had extraordinary days planned on Friday.
John and Deborah Alouise planned to pick up their daughter from college. Aaron Herriott, just weeks from graduation, planned to attend Burgettstown Area Middle/High School’s prom last night.
But the day with perfect weather turned tragic when Herriott, 18, who police suspect was late for school, drove his speeding red Mustang into the Alouises’ oncoming silver minivan on a rural Washington County road. All three died instantly, police said.
The couple’s son, Scott Alouise, a front-seat passenger in his 20s, was flown to Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side with injuries. The couple was driving him to work at Giant Eagle in McDonald.
“This has just devastated me,” said Veronica Barnum, who grew up next door to John Alouise on Station Street in the rural community of Smith. She described him and his wife as devoted parents. “I can’t imagine what their kids are going through.”
The crash occurred at 7:45 a.m. on Joffre-Bulger Road, said Smith police Chief Bernie LaRue. The Alouises were headed to Westminster College in New Wilmington to pick up daughter Marah, 21, who attends school there and is a member of student government.
John Alouise, 62, who retired after more than 35 years at Weirton Steel, was driving. His wife, 51, sat in the back seat.
Police said Herriott was going at least 70 mph in a 40 mph zone when his car crossed the center line. They measured 160 feet of skid marks.
“You could hear the car coming down the road and then the tires squeaking, and I knew what was going to happen. Then there was this big bang,” said Deb Risker, whose home of 25 years faces the crash site.
It’s the second fatal accident she remembers at the same spot, which has a curve more dangerous than it looks, she said, especially if a driver is going too fast.
Herriott lived in Smith’s Midway neighborhood. John Alouise recently moved back into his boyhood home in the Joffre section with his family after his mother died.
“He was a good guy. He was very helpful when I first got married. He was a skilled carpenter and helped me renovate my house when I got married,” said Jarod Stewart, John Alouise’s nephew.
The couple’s youngest daughter, Alyssa, 19, graduated last year from Burgettstown.
News of the crash spread quickly in the small town that residents say has changed little over many decades. It was an especially hard day at the middle and high schools, said Kordell Walsen, 14, an eighth-grader.
“Everyone was crying. They were all crying, even the boys,” he said.
Herriott has three younger siblings — Elijah, a middle-school student; and a sister, Faith, and a brother, Dalton, both in elementary school.
School administrators had to make the hard decision about whether last night’s prom should go on. Herriott planned to attend the event with a junior date, said Deborah Jackson, superintendent of the Burgettstown Area School District.
“Kids want to be together with friends when a tragedy happens. That is why we are having the prom,” Jackson said.
“This is gut-wrenching for everyone. Many times, teachers are as emotional as their students,” she said.
A late afternoon promenade at the school started with a moment of silence, and the two American flags were lowered to half-staff.
Herriott spent half his school day at Burgettstown and the other half at the Western Area Career and Technical Center in Canonsburg, studying auto mechanics. He also worked part time.
Jackson said students and teachers all described Herriott as “a really great kid.”
“He was hardworking and serious and knew what he wanted to do,” said David Palmer, principal of the middle/high school.
Herriott is the second of his siblings to die as a teenager, said his cousin Lindsay Herriott, of South Field. Herriott’s brother Brandon died from a lung ailment at 16, about six years ago, she said. Lindsay was the first to place flowers where Aaron Herriott lost his life.
“I just love him, and I miss him really bad. I feel really sorry for his mother,” she said.