CONEMAUGH TOWNSHIP (KDKA/AP) — Two children were killed and four other people were injured after a tree came crashing down on top of the car they were riding in Monday afternoon in Somerset County.
Police are calling the incident, which happened around 2:30 p.m. along Route 403 in Conemaugh Township, a freak accident.
When police arrived on the scene just minutes after the tree fell, they found the driver still inside the Pontiac Grand AM unconscious and a pregnant female passenger outside. All the children involved were little girls under the age of 10.
Neighbors say the trees were fine the day before, but that there had been a lot of rain recently.
“I saw this lady get out of the passenger seat and she was yelling, ‘My babies,’” said one witness. “We did watch them cut the doors off and cut the roof off, and get the driver out of the car.”
Authorities have released the names of the girls killed, 8-year-old Ryleigh Freiwald and 6-year-old Macayla Freiwald.
Police identify the driver as Jason Himebaugh. He was not the children’s biological father. The pregnant woman is identified as 26-year-old Ashley Lichty.
The two girls injured are 5-year-old Ciara Freiwald and 3-year-old Lillie Freiwald.
“There was a tree lying across the road a hundred feet from the vehicle from what I could tell, and there were six patients on scene and I was the only paramedic,” said Adam Trabold, a paramedic.
Police Chief Louis Barclay says an accident reconstruction determined that the tree was rotted at the base.
“In my 23 years, I’ve never had anything like this here, this magnitude of this accident with children involved like that there,” said Chief Barclay, of Conemaugh Township Police.
Himebaugh, Lichty and two youngest girls are being treated for their injuries at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.
Lichty is recovering in the ICU, but there’s been no word on the conditions of the other three.
Coroner Wallace Miller says the two oldest children died of blunt force trauma. Their ages weren’t immediately released.
Chief Barclay says they may never know exactly what caused the tree to fall.
“This is something that never happens. It’s a tragedy,” he said.
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