SHAMOKIN — A Shamokin man and his 3-year-old great-granddaughter were killed Wednesday morning when the sport-utility vehicle they were traveling in crashed head-on into a concrete retaining wall at the corner of Montgomery and Sixth streets at the Carbon Run channel.
Allen E. Travitz Sr., 68, was driving the girl, Mackenzie Mae Garber, also of Shamokin, to school when the accident occurred at about 8 a.m. Family members identified the pair, county officials said.
Two witnesses who attempted to rescue the victims said they were dead when they arrived on scene.
“It was a high-speed, high impact crash,” said Shamokin Police Chief Darwin Tobias III, who is conducting the accident investigation with assistance from Northumberland County Coroner James Kelley and Deputy Coroner James Gotlob.
Police said the 1988 Ford Bronco was traveling at a high rate of speed down a steep hill on Montgomery Street when it slammed into the retaining wall, causing both victims to die almost instantly.
The Bronco, which was towed from the scene, sustained extensive damage, with its front end being crushed back above the front tires. An imprint of the vehicle’s headlights and grill were left on the concrete barrier.
Reports at the scene indicated the brakes on the vehicle may have failed as it traveled west on Montgomery Street from the Raspberry Hill section of the city, went across Market Street and continued down a steep hill in the 200 block of West Montgomery Street before slamming head-on into the wall. Another unofficial report indicated the driver may have suffered a heart attack.
But an official cause of the accident has not yet been determined by police.
Two child seats were found in the vehicle, but police aren’t sure if the girl was strapped into either.
The wall was installed at the creek after a bridge was removed many years ago and several accidents, including another fatality in the 1980s, have occurred at the same location, according to a neighbor.
Jerome Golden, of 423 S. Fifth St., said he was loading up his truck outside his home when he heard a “loud bang and violent collision.”
He estimated the SUV was traveling at about 50 mph when it hit the wall. He said the vehicle began leaking fuel as a result of the accident.
Golden and George Geise, of 243 W. Montgomery St., quickly responded to offer assistance to the victims, but said neither one had a pulse when they arrived and died before paramedics had an opportunity to save them.
Golden said the girl was sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle before being thrown onto the dashboard area.
“I have three little kids — a 4-month-old girl, a 6-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl,” he said. “I wish I wouldn’t have seen it. It’s very sad. It’s a shame. Just like that two lives are lost. My heart goes out to the victims and their families.”
Geise, who has witnessed multiple accidents at the site over the years including some that have resulted in damage to his corner home, was sitting in his living room when he heard a “loud bang” that took him out of his chair.
He grabbed a fire extinguisher and was able to douse smoke coming from the front of the SUV. Geise said he and Golden checked for vital signs, but the victims were already dead.
“It’s very sad,” Geise said.
“It’s a sad day. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families,” Tobias said.
Assisting at the scene were Patrolman Scott Weaver, city fire chiefs Bruce Rogers and Jason Zimmerman, multiple firefighters, Northumberland County Public Safety Director Steve Jeffery, Code Enforcement Officer Rick Bozza, emergency and ambulance personnel, and fire police. Several emergency personnel remained at the scene until 10:40 a.m.