A Pitt-Johnstown student has been charged with vehicular homicide, accused of texting while driving, drifting 9 feet into the opposing lane and crashing with a pickup truck occupied by a grandfather and granddaughter who both died in the accident.
Austin Molinich allegedly caused a head-on collision of two pickup trucks that killed a 71-year-old man and his 19-year-old granddaughter. The accident happened on Fransktown Road in Richland Township.
Township Officer Richard W. Pollino said Molinich had told him he was distracted by a bird that hit his windshield, said an affidavit of probable cause included among papers for a criminal court case.
Donald G. Evans Sr., 71, of Conemaugh Township, Cambria County, and Evans’ granddaughter, Cassandra L. Singer, 19, of Montour County were fatally injured in the collision.
Molinich said he looked over his left shoulder to see the bird and crossed into the oncoming lane, according to the affidavit.
When Molinich looked up, he saw an approaching Volkswagen pickup truck and tried to get back into his lane when the collision took place.
Pollino asked Molinich whether he was using his cell phone at the time of the collision and Molinich said he was not.
However, Molinich said that he called for help right after the collision, the affidavit said.
Pollino then asked to see Molinich’s cell phone and requested that he show him when he called 911. It showed the call was made at 8:09 p.m..
Molinich was then asked to show his incoming and outgoing text messages, which showed a message was received at 8:07 p.m..
“I confiscated his cell phone for further investigation,” Pollino said in the affidavit.
Molinich reported to the police station and provided a written statement, the affidavit said.
According to Molinich’s statement, shortly into his drive, he tried to send a text message and, as he approached a corner a bird flew into his windshield.
When he brought his sight back to the road he noticed he was across the yellow line. He stated that he tried to pull his truck back over as far as he could, but then had a head-on collision with the oncoming vehicle.
Molinich also stated that he was driving the speed limit.
An accident reconstruction showed that Molinich was traveling at 54 mph in a 45 mph zone five seconds before the collision happened.
The reconstruction also showed that he crossed over into the other lane nine feet before breaking and trying to steer back into his own lane.
The two vehicles collided near the yellow line in Evans lane of travel.
The Cambria County Coroner’s Office ruled the cause of death for Evans and Singer as blunt force trauma due to the motor vehicle accident, according to the affidavit.
There was a motion to suppress a search warrant on June 27, 2012, for Molinich’s electronic data stored on his phone in the form of text message, both short term message service and multimedia messaging service for incoming and outgoing messages.
It was also for all incoming and outgoing phone calls and all contacts and phone numbers, according to a defense motion to suppress.
The warrant violated the United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment and the Pennsylvania Constitution’s article one, section eight. The court was requested to suppress all and any evidence seized before the warrant was issued.
The Richland Township police then applied for a warrant for Molinich’s car on July 2, 2012, according to the warrant application.
There was another motion to suppress evidence on July 2, 2012, for physical examination of crush damage and vehicle parts.
This warrant also violated the United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment and the Pennsylvania Constitution’s article one, section eight, according to the motion to suppress document.
The court was requested to do the same as the previous motion to suppress.
Hearings on the evidence-suppression motions have yet to be concluded in court action in the case preliminary to a trial in the matter.