15-year-old student killed in school van crash in Dravosburg

DRAVOSBURG, Pa. — A 15-year-old girl was killed and five others were taken to the hospital after a Serra Catholic High School van and a car collided in Dravosburg Wednesday morning.

A Serra Catholic student, later identified as Samantha Lee Kalkbrenner, was killed. Three other students were taken to local hospitals in stable condition and two men, the drivers, were taken in critical condition, according to Allegheny County police.

Kalkbrenner was pronounced dead at the scene.

“So, she finally did turn out and as she turned, the car coming up the hill smashed into her,” said Amy Kovka. “Pieces just went flying everywhere so I ran in and as I ran in, I called 911.”

Kovka was rattled after witnessing the crash between a Serra Catholic High School van and a car at Richland Avenue and Third Street at around 7 a.m.

Cell phone video shows moments after the crash when people were jumping into action, including Jessica McCauley and her husband who pulled over to help.

“He started breaking the windows out in the car to see who was in it and he saw it was on fire. He couldn’t get the guy out, so he ran and got bottled waters from the car and started dumping it on the engine,” said Jessica McCauley.

McCauley ran over to one of kids and used her hoodie to help stop the bleeding before first responders got there.

“The boy, I talked to him the whole time, trying to keep him alert, telling him ‘It’s going to be okay buddy,’” said McCauley. “Another boy said ‘Ma’am, this is a bad dream’ and I said ‘It’s going to be okay,’” said McCauley.

The initial investigation by county police shows the van was attempting to make a left-hand turn onto Richland when it was struck by a Jetta traveling north on Richland.

The crash left pieces of both vehicles scattered all over Richland Avenue. Residents in the area say it has become a trouble spot for accidents and speeding is often a factor.

McKeesport Police Captain Christopher Halaszynski told Channel 11 there have been several accidents at the intersection over the years.

Investigators can’t yet say if speed was a factor in this fatal crash.

Serra Catholic High School will be closed through Friday. School activities are also canceled.

A prayer service is planned on campus at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Anyone with information is asked to call the County Police Tip Line at 1-833-ALL-TIPS.

The Catholic Diocese released the following statement:

We were made aware of a vehicle collision this morning in Dravosburg involving a school van from Serra Catholic High School and a car. We are heartbroken to confirm that a 15-year-old Serra Catholic student died as a result. We have been advised that three other Serra Catholic students were taken to a hospital in stable condition. We’re told that the van driver and the driver of the car are in the hospital receiving treatment.

The Serra Catholic school community is close-knit, and this has deeply impacted many. The principal, president, staff, teachers, and the school chaplain, along with the diocesan school superintendent and assistant superintendent have been working to comfort school families and each other.

We are indebted to the first responders and the doctors and medical staffs who are taking care of the victims.

Counselors from Serra Catholic and other Catholic High Schools are helping those in need of counseling services.

The decision was made to close the school from today through Friday. School activities are also canceled.

“At a time like this we become aware of how precious life is and how important it is to support each other not only during tragedy but always,” said Bishop David Zubik.

We ask for your prayers for everyone involved as the school community struggles with their shock and grief.

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