Woman hurt in 2-car crash

Erie firefighters help free a woman injured in a two-vehicle accident on East 12th Street and the Bayfront Connector on Monday. The woman was freed by firefighters using a rescue tool.

Two Car Accident Injures Three

March 23, 2014 – The two-car accident happened around 10:30 Sunday morning at the Bayfront Connector at Broad Street.

Police say a car was driving westbound on the connector, when a van traveling east attempted to make a left hand turn onto broad street.

The car and van collided, and passengers in both vehicles were trapped inside their vehicles.

A hearse tool had to be used to get the people out.

Three people, one from the car, and two from the van, were taken to UPMC Hamot.

3 People Taken to Hospital Following Car Accident

About 100 Northwest Pennsylvania volunteers from different branches of disaster relief met for a training program on Saturday. They worked together to classify and treat a dozen students with simulated severe injuries.

Crash kills Springville man March 1

SPRINGVILLE — Erie County Sheriff’s deputies investigated a motor vehicle accident on March 1 that resulted in the death of a Springville man.

Joseph Pinelli, 31, was operating a small car, southbound on Route 240, in the town of Concord. According to witnesses, Pinelli’s car veered to the right side of the southbound lane, then across the roadway into the northbound lane and was struck broadside by a pickup truck, operated by William Hastie, 21, of Angola. The impact sent Pinelli’s vehicle into a ditch.

Several motorists stopped and attempted to assist Pinelli, who was trapped in the car. Members of the East Concord Fire Company extricated the victim and he was transported to Bertrand Chaffee Hospital in Springville, where he died, a short time later.

The investigation is continuing. At the time of the collision, the roadway was wet from falling snow, but had not become snow-covered.

The initial investigation determined that the victim was not wearing a seat belt.

Motorist acquitted in fatal bus stop crash

Multiple eyewitnesses initially told police they thought a southbound school bus on Route 97 had activated its red stop lights when Tyler Festa’s northbound car struck two students as they crossed the road, killing one of them — 13-year-old Ashley Clark.

One witness even said it looked as though Festa failed to brake.

A nearby video recorder, however, captured the Dec. 20, 2011, collision near Popps Mobile Home Park in its entirety and told investigators those eyewitnesses were wrong:

The bus had not activated its red lights before the collision and did not do so until more than 10 seconds after the crash.

The crash victims, Clark and 17-year-old Taz Giannelli, had entered the road improperly while the bus still had its amber lights flashing.

And Festa, sober and not distracted by a cell phone, was braking hard and skidding as he struck the students at a speed of about 35 mph in the 55 mph speed zone.

In the face of that evidence, District Attorney Jack Daneri, nevertheless, opted to file a list of serious charges against Festa built around Festa’s alleged failure to respond to the flashing amber caution lights on the bus.

In so doing, Daneri kicked off a contentious two-year legal battle as judges from Erie County to the state’s highest court weighed whether, under the complicated circumstances, the prosecution could ever prove Festa acted with a criminal level of recklessness.

An Erie County jury finally ended that debate Wednesday with about 30 minutes’ consideration of the evidence.

The panel came down squarely and swiftly on the side of Festa.

A panel of eight women and four men deliberated little more than half an hour midday before returning to Judge John J. Trucilla’s courtroom to clear Festa of the four most serious charges he faced — homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, simple assault and recklessly endangering another. Trucilla immediately then cleared Festa of three summary traffic violations.

The verdict ended a long-pending case that was initially dismissed by Erie County Judge Shad Connelly for lack of evidence and eventually reached the state Supreme Court, which returned it to Erie County for a trial.

Festa, Daneri claimed, was guilty of homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter because Festa failed to heed the school bus amber warning lights that were flashing for an estimated 12 seconds as Festa’s car approached.

Festa, Daneri said, did not “proceed with caution” and was not prepared to stop as required by the law. As a result, Clark was dead and Giannelli hurt, he said.

The defense for Festa, a 19-year-old hospital orderly at the time of the crash, vigorously maintained the crash was not a crime but a tragic accident, caused in part by the students’ decision to enter the road prematurely, Festa’s lawyer, Peter Sala said.

Sala used one word to describe his reaction to the verdict.

“Relief,” he said.

Daneri credited the swiftness with which it was returned to the jury’s intelligence. He said the issues had been framed clearly by the trial: Jurors had to decide if Festa was criminally reckless or if an accident had occurred.

“We thought the charges were appropriate, and we knew it was going to be a difficult case. We also believed it should be heard by a jury,” he said.

Sala said the primary cause of the accident was the location of the Fort LeBoeuf School District bus stop, which required students to cross a busy highway, often in the dark.

“It put the burden on the students to decide when they should enter the road,” he said. “If they entered the road early, there was going to be an accident.”

The school district changed the location of the bus stop about a month after the crash, he repeatedly told jurors. And in November, the school district’s and Festa’s insurers agreed to pay $325,000 and $25,000, respectively, to settle any potential liability claims arising from Clark’s death, information which was not shared with the jury.

To win, the prosecution would have had to prove Festa grossly deviated from the standard of care a reasonable person would observe and consciously disregarded the risk that his conduct would cause death or injury.

Sala said Festa had the right of way, according to the prosecution’s own witnesses. He was sober. Cell phone records showed he was not using his phone to call or text and he was driving 10 to 18 mph below the speed limit when he braked and swerved to avoid the students.

Festa told police he saw the lights and children from a distance of about 200 yards or less but that they did not register in his mind.

In his closing argument, Sala said if Festa had a criminal mindset and was really worried about being late for work, as the prosecution claimed, Festa would have sped past the bus.

“This kid did everything he could to avoid the accident,” Sala said.

Daneri described the most difficult aspects of the case for the prosecution.

“I think what was most difficult to overcome was where the two children were at the time and that the defendant’s actions in driving … were not otherwise reckless.”

Daneri in his closing argument told jurors that everyone knows what flashing yellow lights mean on a school day — that a bus and children are ahead. Festa’s having the right of way did not relieve him of his duty to slow down adequately, he said.

“You can’t roll right through a yellow light every time you want,” Daneri said.

LISA THOMPSON can be reached at 870-1802 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNthompson.

Festa Found Not Guilty in Vehicular Homicide Trial

MARCH 19, 2014- Tyler Festa was found not guilty on all counts in the 2011 car accident that took the life of a 13-year-old and injured another teen.
After deliberating for a little more than 30 minutes, a jury acquitted 21 year-old Festa of all charges including homicide by motor vehicle and involuntary manslaughter.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Peter Sala stressed that the fatal accident on Route 97 that took Ashley Clark’s life and injured Taz Gianelli was “An accident, a tragic accident.”
Sala told jurors what happened “doesn’t rise to a level of a criminal act.”
Sala stressed that only the amber lights were visible on the school bus, and they had not yet turned red when Festa hit the school children.
He illustrated that the children crossed the street too early.
The prosecution fired back…  District Attorney Jack Daneri stressed that Festa knew he needed to stop for the children…
He said, “Yellow flashing lights on a week day are a quintessential sign there’s a school bus and children ahead…”
Daneri told the jurors that Festa acted with criminal recklessness because he did not proceed with caution when he spotted the yellow lights.
Both attorneys say this was a devastating case for all parties involved.

Festa Cleared in Bus Stop Accident Trial

A Jury acquits Tyler Festa on all charges related to 2011 School Bus Stop accident.

21 year old  Festa as the driver of a car that was traveling north on Route 97 in Summit Township the morning of December 20, 2011.  His car approached a southbound school bus. The bus had its amber lights flashing, but its red “stop” lights were not activated.  Two kids stepped onto the northbound lane and were struck by Festa’s car. One of them, Ashley Clark, 13, was killed.

The question was, should Tyler Festa be found guilty of homicide by vehicle? The Jury responded with a no on all counts.

Troopers confirmed that Festa was traveling 13 to 10 miles per hour below the speed limit. He was not intoxicated and was not texting.

However, State Police cited Festa because the law states that a driver, when seeing yellow lights flashing on a school bus, must be able to stop when the red lights come on. A trooper testified that re-enactment tests reveal that by the time Festa reacted, he never would have been able to stop if those red lights had come on.

But, troopers also testified that Clark and the other student were also at fault. They testified that the teenagers were, basically, jaywalking since the red lights of the bus were not on. One trooper testified that Festa legally had the right of way.

After the prosecution rested its case, Defense Attorney Peter Sala asked Judge John Trucilla for an acquittal of his client, saying the DA’s office did not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Tyler Festa acted with recklessness.

The judge ruled the trial to continue Wednesday morning and the jury had the final word.






Jury selection underway in Summit fatal bus stop crash trial

An Erie County judge this morning weighed pretrial motions regarding what evidence jurors may consider in the fatal bus stop crash trial of Tyler Festa, 21.

Judge John Trucilla ruled on some motions and reserved his ruling on others in the case against Festa, who is accused of recklessly striking 13-year-old Ashley Clark with his car as she crossed to road to catch a school bus in Summit Township in December 2011.

Jury selection is scheduled to resume about 1 p.m. after the jury pool returns from lunch.

One unresolved pretrial question is whether an expert hired by the defense can testify that he concluded from an accident reconstruction that Festa’s conduct was not reckless, but reasonable under the circumstances. The expert said Festa was sober, not speeding, but braking his car at the time of the crash, and that Festa pulled over right away and called for help. That would help the Festa’s lawyer, Peter Sala, show that Festa did not act with gross negligence.

District Attorney Jack Daneri, however, maintains, the defense expert is barred from weighing in on what Festa’s mindset was at the time.

“That is a question for the jury,” Daneri said.

Trucilla ruled that jurors may hear testimony from a witness who said he overheard Festa tell someone on the phone at the crash scene that he was running late for work and struck two children. That testimony would support the prosecution’s theory that the accident occurred because Festa was rushing to work. The defense objects because, Sala said, the information was not part of the witness’ original statement to police and just surfaced on Saturday.

Festa faces a felony charge of homicide by vehicle, misdemeanor counts of involuntary manslaughter, recklessly endangering another person and simple assault, and three summary counts.

See Tuesday’s Erie Times-News and GoErie.com for more coverage.

Car Crashes into Tree, Woman Injured

A car crash sent a 29-year-old Erie woman to UPMC Hamot on Sunday.

The accident happened around noon, when the driver of a SUV struck a tree at 12th and Cascade, severely caving in the vehicle’s front end.

The victim was a passenger in the vehicle, and according to police, her injuries were non life-threatening.

Erie police on scene said it appeared that fast speeds played a factor in the accident.

The driver was not hurt.

Fatal Accident Trial To Start Monday

A Lake City man is back in court Monday to face charges from a bus stop accident that claimed the life of a Summit Township teenager.

21 year old Tyler Festa was driving a car that struck two teenagers at a Summit Township school bus stop along Route 97 back in December of 2011.

Ashley Clark, who was 13 was killed and Taz Gianelli, who was 17 was injured.

Charges against Festa were dismissed by Judge Shad Connelly after Festa’s attorney presented evidence that the bus red lights were not flashing when the collision occurred, and the students walked across the road before the bus completely stopped.

Despite charges being dismissed, they were reinstated by the superior court.

Festa faces a felony charge of homicide by vehicle and other charges in that crash.

The trial is scheduled to begin tomorrow morning in Judge John Trucilla’s courtroom.