Two UPS Truckers Confirmed Among 5 Dead in PA Turnpike Pileup
Mount Pleasant Township, PA – Two United Parcel Service (UPS) truck drivers have been confirmed among the five who perished Sunday morning in a multiple vehicle pileup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The mass casualty crash occurred at approximately 3:30 a.m. along the westbound lanes of the Turnpike near mile post 86, which is about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania State Police investigators say a tour bus, operated by Rockaway, NJ-based Z & D Tours, was on a downhill curve when, for reasons not yet determined, the 58-year-old driver was unable to negotiate a turn and the bus struck an embankment before rolling onto its side.
A passenger on the bus, Lamar Brady, told NBC 4 Columbus that the driver navigated the bus into the left lane to pass a FedEx tractor-trailer.
As the bus driver attempted to move the bus back into the right lane, Brady says he overcorrected and lost control.
“I was fully awake when it happened,” Brady said. “I can still see the bus crashing… every second of it… I can see it in my head replaying over and over.”
The bus was then struck from behind by three tractor-trailers and a passenger vehicle, police said.
One of those big rigs was a UPS team hauling out of of the company’s Harrisburg operating center, UPS later confirmed in a statement.
“Sadly, UPS confirms the identities of two of our drivers who are victims of this tragic incident,” a UPS statement said. “Our drivers will be missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families.”
The drivers were identified as 53-year-old Daniel Kepner, of Lewistown, PA, who worked with UPS for five years, and 48-year-old Dennis Kehler, of Lebanon, PA, who worked with the company for 28 years.
Company officials said UPS is “cooperating with authorities in the investigation.”
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Another tractor-trailer involved in the crash was in service for FedEx Ground.
In a statement on Sunday, a FedEx spokesperson said the company extends “our deepest condolences to the families of the individuals involved in this accident.”
“There is no higher priority for FedEx Ground than safety, and we are cooperating fully with investigating authorities at this time,” the spokesperson added.
The company did not provide an update on the conditions of those traveling in the FedEx truck, but it has been confirmed they were not among those who perished.
Westmoreland County Coroner, Kenneth Bacha, has now released the identities of the five decedents, which include the aforementioned UPS drivers, along with the tour bus driver, Shuang Qing Feng, 58, of Flushing, NY, as well as passengers in the bus, Eileen Zelis Aria, 35, and Jaremy Vazquez, 9, both of Brooklyn, NY.
Authorities say 60 people were taken to three nearby hospitals for treatment of injuries ranging in seriousness, but most believed to be non-life threatening.
The injured reportedly range in age from 7 to 67 years old.
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In a press conference on Sunday, Jennifer Homendy with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed earlier reports that a team of investigators were on scene.
Homendy advised that the NTSB will conduct an extensive investigation that is separate from those already being led by police and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Z & D Tours operates 8 buses and employs 15 drivers.
The tour bus company has not reported any fatal crashes in the prior 24 months and has a “satisfactory” safety rating.
TransportationNation.com will continue to follow new developments in this investigation.
Photos courtesy of KDKA-TV via NNS