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Report released on fatal accident

December 04, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, PA. - The passenger in the pickup truck that careened through the parking lot of a local restaurant in an August crash that killed the driver and a pedestrian said the driver went rigid, his head went back and his eyes were closed before the impact, Washington Township police said Friday.

Police listed speed as the cause of the accident, which occurred around 8 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Mountain Gate Family Restaurant at 10530 Buchanan Trail East.

April Garrett, 35, of 13204 Smithsburg Pike in Smithsburg, was killed in front of her husband and two children. The family was walking toward its vehicle after leaving the restaurant.

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Police said an autopsy performed on the driver, Brian W. Wertz, 31, of 304 Constitution Ave. in Mont Alto, Pa., showed that there was no indication of any medical problem, including a heart attack or stroke, "that would have produced this kind of driving."

Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner said Friday that evidence of a seizure would not show up in an autopsy, as it would in a heart attack or stroke.

The truck slid sideways across the parking lot and the driver's side of the vehicle smashed into the restaurant.

Garrett and Wertz were pronounced dead at the scene as a result of multiple force trauma, according to the coroner's report.

Wertz's passenger in the 1992 full-size Chevrolet pickup, Ryan Soverns, 25, of 303 S. Main St. in Mont Alto, was flown to Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center with serious injuries. He was released from the hospital a few days later.

Soverns could not be reached for comment Friday.

The coroner's report showed Wertz's blood alcohol level was .049 percent at the time of the crash, below Pennsylvania's legal limit of .08 percent.

The coroner's report also said that Wertz's blood and urine showed traces of marijuana, "although there was no indication of recent use which would have rendered Wertz incapable of operating a vehicle," the police report said.

Police said that based on witness statements and information at the scene, Wertz was driving the pickup west on Buchanan Trail East (Pa. 16) at a very high rate of speed, and passed a vehicle on the right. As the vehicle swerved back into the westbound lane, it went too far and ended up in the eastbound lane, police said.

The vehicle swerved to the left to avoid a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle. The truck's left front tire hit a curb, causing the vehicle to turn sideways about 45 degrees. It slid across the front lawn of private property and went airborne about 40 feet before it reached the parking lot. There were no skid marks to indicate that Wertz had applied his brakes on the road or in the parking lot, police said.

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