Two men accused of racing on a public highway in western Pennsylvania last year have been ordered to stand trial on charges in a crash involving a school van that left a teenage girl dead.
Allegheny County police said a Serra Catholic High School van was trying to make a left turn Sept. 20 in Dravosburg when it was struck by a northbound sedan. Fifteen-year-old Samantha Lee Kalkbrenner died at the scene and three other students and two adults were also injured. Prosecutors allege that two men, who worked at the same place nearby, were racing and the first car is believed to have been traveling more than 100 mph just before the crash.
Allegheny County District Judge Kate Lovelace on Friday upheld all 15 counts against 43-year-old William Soliday II of North Huntingdon, including homicide and recklessly endangering another person as well as illegal racing and reckless driving. He wept behind the courtroom partition before he was taken back to jail, where he has been held without bail.
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Lovelace dismissed the only felony charge against the other man, 37-year-old Andrew Voigt of Penn Hills, as well as a charge of failing to stop and render aid, but held for court other charges including five misdemeanor counts of reckless endangering.
During the 3 1/2-hour hearing, prosecutors called three other drivers who said they saw the men speeding, and prosecutors also played videos showing the crash, including one from a dashboard camera.
Defense attorneys for the two men rejected the allegation that their clients were racing. Voigt’s attorneys argued that he wasn’t involved in either a race nor the crash. Attorney David Shrager, representing Voigt, said “because two things happened at the same time doesn’t mean one caused the other.”
Soliday’s attorney, Casey White, also said there was no evidence of a race but suggested that Voigt could have been chasing his client. He argued unsuccessfully for dismissal of the homicide charge, which he said required intent or malice.
“He applied the brakes. He tried to stop the accident,” White said. “This was an unfortunate, horrible, tragic accident.”
Deputy District Attorney Brian Catanzarite argued that intent wasn’t required, and with the speed he was driving the defendant “consciously disregarded” the “high risk of death or serious injury” others faced.
“You don’t drive at those speeds and not think there’s not a risk for other people,” Catanzarite said.
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