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Pennsylvania driver charged with involuntary manslaughter

An accident in western Pennsylvania that occurred almost two years ago is being revisited as the trial for the driver in the incident begins. The car crash happened on Feb. 21, 2010, just before 2 a.m.

According to the accident report, a 20-year-old man was driving his 2007 Dodge Claiber with four passengers. As the driver took the vehicle around a left curve, he lost control and slammed into a barrier. The vehicle then went airborne before coming to a rest approximately 50 feet from the road. The three passengers in the back of the car -- an 18-year-old female and two 20-year-old males -- died in the crash. The driver and another passenger in the front seat survived the crash. The driver has been charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter and homicide by vehicle.

A Pennsylvania state police trooper testified that an electronic data recorder in the vehicle recorded information that has led the authorities to believe that the driver was traveling at speeds of more than 100 mph before the crash. The data recorder in the vehicle is triggered when the air bags go off.

The data showed that the vehicle was traveling at 106 mph five seconds before the air bags deployed. During a cross-examination of the trooper, the defense suggested that the speed could have been because the vehicle was airborne and the wheels were spinning without resistance, but if it was before the airbags deployed, then it was likely when the car hit the barrier.

The defense also believes that two recalls for the vehicle model regarding brake issues could have affected the accident. If that is the case then the driver could also pursue a lawsuit claiming personal injury due to someone else's negligence. As it stands, however, the families of the victims would have a strong case to make in court if they decided to file any wrongful death lawsuits.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Trial begins for Upper St. Clair driver in deadly crash," Paula Reed Ward, Feb. 7, 2012

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Gregory R. Gifford
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