Woman charged with driving 100+ mph in deadly February crash on Route 51

PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh woman is free on non-monetary bond after she was arraigned on charges of vehicular homicide, DUI, reckless driving and speeding charges Wednesday.

Allison Matthew is charged in connection with the deadly crash on Feb. 6 on Route 51. The crash claimed the life of her 26-year-old cousin, Katherine Barvilchak, who police say was a passenger in Matthew’s car.

According to the criminal complaint, Matthew was driving 101.9 miles per hour when she failed to negotiate a left-hand curve, lost control of the car, hit some landscape rocks, went airborne, took out a utility pole and flipped over. She and her cousin were both thrown from the vehicle. Barvilchak was pronounced dead at the scene. Matthew was taken to the hospital in critical condition. She survived the crash.

Police say Matthew’s blood-alcohol level was also more than two times the legal limit, listed in the court papers at 0.184%.

“It’s good to see justice coming for Katie. I hate to see family going to jail though, but she’s made her bed and she has to lay in it,” said Courtnae Holzwarth, a cousin to both women.

Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle spoke with Holzwarth and Barvilchak’s sister.

“I was sleeping, and my cousin and my mom called me and they said that they were in an accident. My sister was pronounced dead. I mean, I really didn’t know how to feel, like my heart sank. It was definitely traumatic and I’m still living a nightmare every day. A lot of anger, disbelief and hurt,” said Mary Ann Kennedy, Barvilchak’s younger sister, who was sporting a T-shirt with Katie sitting on the Mister Rogers statue on the North Side.

“This is my sister sitting with Mister Rogers. She absolutely adored him. That’s who she looked up to. That’s who she always wanted to be like, because he was such an inspirational person. Look what he did for our city. That’s what she wanted to be. She wanted to be the person who made change in the world. And I mean, she did it for us, but I wish she had done it for everybody else,” said Kennedy, who along with others referred to her sister as Katie Bee.

The 26-year-old special education teacher lived in Lawrenceville with her boyfriend, graduated from Penn State Altoona and grew up in Brookline. She was preparing to start on her Master’s degree in Education at the University of Pittsburgh in August.

On the night of Feb. 6, after playing beer pong with friends in Brentwood, Barvilchak got into a car with her cousin.

Police said Matthew was driving on Rte. 51, also known as Saw Mill Run Boulevard. They had just passed the Liberty Tubes when police said Matthew lost control of the car and crashed. Family members said they were likely headed to Barvilchak’s home in Lawrenceville when the crash happened.

“Our first instinct was to go down to Mercy (Hospital) and check on Allison. We didn’t know all the situation at that point,” said Holzwarth, who admitted that the concern turned to anger and frustration when they learned the circumstances that led to the crash. Police said Matthew was driving in excess of 90 miles per hour and reached 101.9 miles per hour five seconds before the crash, according to data from the vehicle’s black box.

“Selfishness. She’s so selfish that she got in that car. Just so selfish to get in that car and take those chances. She could have killed anybody. She could have killed multiple people. It was pretty reckless. It’s a miracle that she didn’t. (Route) 51 is a busy road. There’s lots of people there,” said Holzwarth.

In memory of Barvilchak, her sister and other family members and friends have gotten bee tattoos, so she’s never too far from them as they wait and hope that the court case will finally provide answers to some of their most pressing questions.

“I’m just hoping that we get justice for our family because that’s what we deserve, and you know, we all want direct answers as to what happened and why it happened,” said Kennedy.

Earle reached out to Matthew, but didn’t hear back. Earle learned that Matthew turned herself in to authorities on Wednesday morning at Pittsburgh Municipal Court, where she was fingerprinted and arraigned. The judge agreed to release her on non-monetary bond. She’s set to appear at a preliminary hearing on June 25.