Vigil held for young family killed in Thanksgiving police-chase crash
NORTH VERSAILLES, Pa. -
Hundreds of people gathered Sunday to mourn the loss of a young couple and their daughter who were tragically killed in a police-chase crash while on their way to spend Thanksgiving with their loved ones.
The couple, 28-year-old David Bianco and 21-year-old Kailey Meininger, along with their 2-year-old daughter, Annika, were innocent victims when a police chase ended in a fiery crash on Route 30 in North Versailles on Thursday.
Mourners gathered at Cliff Adams Field in Pitcairn for a candlelight vigil for the young family. Loved ones said they are trying to heal, but the loss of the family is weighing heavily on their hearts. They expressed gratitude from the community, as many people in attendance had never met the victims or their families but were touched by the tragedy.
"We love you. We miss you. And we're going to think about you. Please watch over all of us. Teach us better things and give us the strength to go on," said Maureen Hendershot, Kaylie Meininger's grandmother.
A vigil organizer and close friend of the family said the Pitcairn community in which the couple worked and grew up is taking the loss very hard. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay for the victims' funerals, and more than $19,000 was raised in three days. Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m.
"Dave would call (Kailey) almost every day just to say, 'Hi. I love you,'" said Lisa Petrosky. "Her little girl was amazing. She was an amazing mother."
The Pitcairn police chief is David Biano's cousin, and the department posted a video showing the family happy and laughing. On Friday, Bianco's mother said it's now her mission to preserve the memory of David, Kailey and Annika, describing them as a perfect young family.
"They were good people," Catherine Bianco said. "They had so much to live for."
Bianco is demanding swift justice for 22-year-old Demetrius Coleman, who is charged with three counts of homicide.
The crash happened Thursday after East McKeesport police made a traffic stop at 2:17 p.m. when Coleman allegedly made an illegal turn. Coleman told police he didn't have a driver's license and officers learned that a warrant was out for his arrest for a probation violation, stemming from drug charges.
When North Versailles police officers headed to the scene to assist, Coleman allegedly took off, and officers pursued the car until it crashed at the intersection of Route 30 and Route 49, hitting two other vehicles, county police said.
Police said the victims, who were in a vehicle that was struck by Coleman's car, had nothing to do with the chase.
A police source told Channel 11 News that speeds reached more than 100 mph during the chase. Authorities said that as per protocol, the East McKeesport police officer who initiated the chase was placed on administrative leave.
Surveillance video from a nearby business shows Coleman's white car speeding on Route 30, with officers following, moments before it all came to a tragic end. According to a criminal complaint, Coleman was weaving between cars and drove into oncoming traffic at one point.
At the intersection of Routes 30 and 48, witnesses said Coleman hit the car carrying the young family, causing their vehicle to burst into flames.
“I heard (a) bang, and a few minutes later, I heard police cars. (I) came outside the door, and that’s when I saw the smoke. I only saw the one white car at the beginning, the SUV, and then the burnt car,” witness Paul Trammell said.
Authorities said Coleman was among those taken to a hospital for treatment, where he remains as of Sunday. He was charged with three counts of homicide, police said. Authorities said a woman who was in his car's passenger seat was found in possession of heroin. She is also expected to be charged. There was no word on the conditions of the other two victims who were hurt.
Allegheny County police are asking anyone who was at the intersection and witnessed the crash to call them at 412-473-3000.
This makeshift memorial in N. Versailles for the victims in yesterday's crash is heartbreaking. A family that should still be here. #WPXIpic.twitter.com/rcmum8g0aI