Headstones Knocked Over When Driver Crashes Into Cemetery

BRACKENRIDGE (KDKA) — A section of a Brackenridge cemetery is in total disarray after a driver lost control and crashed Sunday afternoon.

Janee Wislie stood in the sun drenched Prospect Cemetery in Brackenridge on Tuesday looking at the shattered and scattered markers of her family’s graves.

“My great uncle is here, great grandmother, great grandfather,” she said, pointing to the spots where their stones no longer sit, “and my parents.”

The base of her parents’ stone intact but moved a bit, the flowers the family has planted and an American flag still present but smashed. Janee won’t forget the image of the car that Sunday came to rest in the Henchel family plot.

“It was right on my parents, the base of the stone of both my parents,” she said.

It was a car that came racing down Roup Avenue late Sunday afternoon, hitting the small embankment and going airborne into the cemetery for an estimated 75 feet, taking out 8 headstones before landing on its side.

Chris Sydlik was one of the first to get to the car. The man in the passenger seat was alert. A woman was behind the wheel unconscious. Sydlik says the man told him, “the driver had a seizure.” Both occupants of the car were taken to the hospital, their names and conditions are not being released.

Wislie’s maiden name was Henschel, and it was the Henschel family plot took the bulk of the car’s damage. Her mom and dad’s headstone now sits about 10 feet away from its base. The other headstones are equally scattered.

Janee and her siblings just want everything restored the way it was. Homburg says insurance will cover the cost. And the good news about the stones…

“Only one was broken,” Prospect Cemetery president Cindy Homburg said. “The others are going to be okay we just have to move them back to where they belong.”

Wislie seemed relieved to find out the repairs will be made.

“When it’s your loved ones and you come and visit them, and things like this happen, it kind of hurts, you know,” she said.

Homburg says the historic cemetery has had its run of bad luck.

In May, she says, “We had an eighty foot tree fall over in the cemetery which we are still working on taking the stump out.”

And on the Fourth of July, Homburg says, “The neighboring people decided to have a party in the cemetery and they knocked over tombstones with their fireworks and they burnt the grass setting off fireworks.” The neighbors are taking care of the damages.

But to a cemetery that dates its history to Civil War era burials and has very few spaces left, funding is sparse. Volunteers and donations are the lifeblood and dealing with crisis can be challenging.

Homburg hopes the cemetery’s misfortunes are over.

“Things come in threes and that’s three! So hopefully we’re on our way up,” she said.

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