Expert to review fatal accident

Williamsburg man contesting homicide by vehicle charge

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Wil­liams­burg man is contesting homicide by vehicle and related traffic charges filed against him in a 2016 fatal crash that killed a Hollidaysburg man.

A Blair County judge signed an order Monday allocating $500 for the hiring of an expert to review an accident reconstruction report that state police at Hollidaysburg used in charging 27-year-old Steven A. Reckart of Williamsburg.

Reckart, based on the reconstructionist’s report, drove across the double yellow center lines on River Road in Frankstown Township about 6 a.m. April 22, 2016. Police said he crashed head-on into a vehicle driven by Kenneth E. Swope, 53, Hollidaysburg, killing Swope instantly.

Police said Reckart, who had to be cut away from his vehicle, was flown to UPMC Altoona Hospital where he was treated for serious injuries.

A blood sample taken at the hospital revealed that Reckart, at the time of the crash, had oxycodone and buprenorphrin in his system, both used in the treatment of opioid addiction.

In a short hearing Monday, where Judge Daniel J. Milliron considered the $500 request, the judge asked if Reckart was facing a charge of homicide by vehicle or homicide by vehicle while DUI.

It’s homicide by vehicle, District Attorney Richard Consiglio responded, because the level of the substances was insufficient to support a homicide by vehicle while DUI charge.

But the public defender’s office is also challenging the homicide by vehicle charge, with legal arguments scheduled for review on July 23.

Chief Public Defender Russ Montgomery, in a petition filed with the court on Reckart’s behalf, pointed out that the crash on River Road had no eye witnesses. So far, according to Montgomery, the allegation of reckless driving is based only on an accident reconstructionist’s report.

In a ruling handed down earlier this year, the state Superior Court examined a Monroe County vehicle crash and concluded that prosecutors failed to offer sufficient evidence to support a claim of driver recklessness.

In the Monroe County case, a tractor-trailer driver was facing homicide by vehicle and aggravated assault by vehicle charges because he crossed a grassy median and struck a bus and tractor-trailer, killing three people and injuring five others. In that case, an accident reconstructionist identified several possibilities for driver distraction, including text messaging, food and beverage consumption and unrestrained pet dogs in the truck.

But for lack of a specific reason, a county judge concluded that prosecutors had rendered only speculation as to the cause and dismissed the criminal charges. On appeal, the Superior Court agreed.

Assistant Public Defender Anthony Kattouf, who attended Monday’s hearing for Montgomery, advised the judge that the requested $500 will be for a review of the state police accident reconstructionist’s report of the crash.

Milliron cautioned that if the review leads to a request for additional work, another request will need to be submitted and subject to court approval.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.