By AMBER HYLAND
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
WEST MIDDLESEX, Pa. -- Despite a number of accidents and two fatalities at the newly designed intersection of state Routes 60 and 18 in Shenango Township, state and local officials believe it's safe.
An accident July 6 around 3 a.m. killed Catherine L. Prample, 21, of Lyle Drive, Hermitage.
Information from a witness stated that the driver failed to stop for the stop sign, driving underneath the first trailer of a semi-truck, according to Sgt. Ronald Preston of the Southwest Regional Police Department.
The tractor-trailer, owned by Conway Central Express, was on Broadway Avenue (Route 60) traveling southbound as it approached the intersection, causing Prample's vehicle to be stuck underneath the rear wheels of the first trailer, according to a press release from Southwest Regional Police.
Shenango Valley Township Volunteer Fire Department used the jaws of life to remove Prample from the vehicle. She was pronounced dead of multiple injuries at 5 a.m. at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, according to the press release.
The accident is still under investigation.
Preston said he went to check the visibility onto Route 60 on July 7 after hearing about the accident.
Preston described the intersection as a T-intersection that is well-marked, alerting drivers that a stop sign is ahead before drivers can go onto Route 60 from Route 18.
"Looking onto Route 60 there is about 6/10 of a mile of clear visibility. Your view is not obstructed," Preston said. "It [the intersection] may be unusual in design, but it's well-marked."
This was the second fatal accident at this intersection since it was redesigned and completed in 2004.
The first fatality was not a "visibility problem," Preston said, explaining that the driver had stopped and then tried to accelerate past an oncoming vehicle.
"After the first fatality, we took a look at the accident report to see if there was something we needed to change," said Randy Brink, the district traffic engineer of PennDot's Engineering District 1, which covers Mercer County.
"We added larger stop signs on the left and right of the road. We put 'Stop' on the pavement and 'Stop Ahead' on the pavement. We did all we could to make it safer," Brink said.
Work on this project was completed in April 2005. "Anytime we make changes it takes some time to get used to," Brink said, adding that some people still call PennDot asking that the stop sign be changed back to a yield.
Brink explained that a driver would still have to stop with a yield sign there. He added that because the bridge at the intersection is not wider, it needs to be a stop.
Several other accidents have occurred at this intersection since it has been redesigned.
Preston said he's heard there have been 10 or 11.
The majority of these accidents occurred because people were not paying attention, Preston said, adding that the stop sign did not play a role in accidents.
Larry Robinson, chairman of Shenango Township officials, said there were 20 citations written last month for people who did not adhere to the stop sign.
Robinson said he did not want to go into what he felt about the intersection, adding that work should have been done years ago to widen the road, but PennDot's funding ran out.
"You can see clear to the horizon," Preston said. "There's no reason why this should be causing this kind of a problem."
Brink said PennDot will take a look at the accident reports when they come in to see if anything else should be done to the intersection.
"No one likes to see this. It's a terrible thing," Brink said. "I have a daughter who is around the same age. But I guess it's our job to take a commonsense look at things to solve the problem."