9-Year-Old Among Victims Killed In Pennsylvania Turnpike Crash

Jan 6, 2020

A 9-year-old New York girl was among the five people killed in a crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that also injured at least 60 people, authorities said Monday.

Meanwhile, authorities continue to investigate the cause of the crash that happened early Sunday on a mountainous and rural stretch of the highway about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Pittsburgh.

At about 3:30 a.m., a loaded tour bus traveling west struck the center median, veered right across the road, and up a steep embankment before rolling onto its side. The crash set off a chain reaction that involved three tractor-trailers and a passenger car.

Both the Pennsylvania State Police and the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, are investigating the fatal crash. Corporal Holly Reber-Billings of the state police said they will examine the involved vehicles, vehicle debris, and conduct interviews to help educate the public.

"Hopefully what not to do in another incident, so we can prevent more accidents from occuring," she said. 

State police are responsible for the turnpike's more than 500 miles. Reber-Billings said they investigate dozens of crashes each day; they are required to conduct an inquiry in any case in which someone is injured or killed, or if a vehicle is disabled. In addition, they must contact NTSB if five or more people are killed. 

Sunday's crash shut down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which is also Interstate 76, for a 90-mile stretch for most of the day Sunday.

All five victims have now been identified by police. Three victims are from New York City: the 58-year-old bus driver, Shuang Qing Feng, of Queens, and two passengers, Eileen Zelis Aria, 35, of the Bronx, and 9-year-old Jaremy Vazquez, of Brooklyn, according to the Westmoreland County coroner's office.

Two UPS drivers, Daniel Kepner, 53, and Dennis Kehler, 48, were also killed in the crash. They were driving together in a tractor-trailer out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

At least 60 people were transported to local hospitals with a range of injuries. Authorities said Sunday all of the patients were expected to survive.

The cause of the crash is still unknown, and Pennsylvania State Police spokesman Stephen Limani said it could take weeks or months to determine. A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating.

*This story will be updated as we learn more.