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Student, 15, Dead Following Van, Car Collision

Three students, two adults hospitalized after Dravosburg wreck

By Staff Reports
The Tube City Almanac
September 20, 2023
Posted in: Crime and Police News

BREAKING: This is a developing story and will be updated. It is subject to change.
Updated with statements from Serra Catholic High School, Bishop David Zubik and State Sen. Jim Brewster.

A 15-year-old student from Serra Catholic High School died Wednesday morning following a crash in Dravosburg, emergency personnel said.

Samantha Lee Kalkbrenner of Dravosburg was pronounced dead at the scene just before 8 a.m., the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office said. She was a passenger in a school van operated by Serra that collided with a car at the intersection of Richland and Third avenues, witnesses said.

Three other students and the drivers of the van and the car also were injured, officials said.

All school activities were cancelled Wednesday and remain cancelled through Sunday, the high school announced on Wednesday afternoon. Teachers will be available on the school’s Haler Heights campus on Thursday to counsel students who are grieving, a spokesperson said.

A prayer service on campus is being planned at 7 p.m. Thursday. All are welcome to attend, the school said.

“At a time like this, we become aware of how precious life is, and how important it is to support each other, not only during tragedy, but always,” said the Most Rev. David Zubik, Roman Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said that the superintendent of schools, assistant superintendent of schools, and other diocesan staff were working with Serra Catholic High School teachers and staff and the school chaplain to respond to the tragedy.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Antkowiak said the diocese was “heartbroken.”

“The Serra Catholic school community is close-knit, and this has deeply impacted many,” she said in a press release.

The private, co-educational high school on Hershey Drive has approximately 300 students in grades 9 through 12, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It serves more than 20 Mon-Yough area school districts.

The diocese is asking the community to pray for the school and Dravosburg communities, Antkowiak said, and added “we are indebted to the first responders and the doctors and medical staffs who are taking care of the victims.”

Other community leaders also issued statements of support for the high school and the Kalkbrenner family.

“My heart breaks for the family and friends of this 15-year-old girl who tragically was taken from the Dravosburg community today after a car struck a school van on Richland Avenue,” state Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport said.

State Rep. Nick Pisciottano said he would be in touch with local officials as well as Allegheny County and the state Department of Transportation to offer his support.

“My heart goes out to the families and entire Dravosburg community impacted by this morning’s tragic incident on Richland Avenue,” he said.

McKeesport Area School District also issued a statement of solidarity with Serra Catholic. Dravosburg is part of the McKeesport Area district.

“The McKeesport Area School District would like to send our sincerest condolences to the Serra Catholic community,” the district announced. “You are in our thoughts and prayers!”

A planned MASD school board meeting scheduled for Wednesday night was rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26.

Allegheny County police said homicide and collision detectives are investigating the cause of the wreck. The intersection, on Dravosburg Hill, is near the Speed Mart and the Dravosburg post office. It has been the site of numerous crashes.

The crash was reported just after 7:15 a.m. and was soon declared a mass-casualty incident, according to emergency personnel. Ambulances were dispatched to the scene from McKeesport, Baldwin, Munhall and Eastern Area, along with rescue crews from Dravosburg, Duquesne Annex and West Mifflin No. 3 volunteer fire departments.

Witnesses said a family member also came to the scene.

The Mansfield Bridge and Richland Avenue were closed following the crash. The investigation contined through 12 noon and the road remained closed.

Three other teen-agers were transported by ambulance to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Lawrenceville, in stable condition, emergency personnel said. Their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening, according to county police.

Two adult males — identified by school officials as the driver of the van and the driver of the other vehicle — also were transported to area hospitals and are currently in critical condition, police said.

County police detectives said the preliminary investigation indicated the school van was attempting to make a left-hand turn onto Richland Avenue when it was struck by a Volkswagen sedan, traveling northbound on Richland Avenue, up Dravosburg Hill.

Witnesses said the impact flipped the van onto its side and that it had to be righted by rescue crews.

Plans will be implemented for everyone in the Serra community to attend the funeral services when they are announced, the school said.

“We will have more counselors available to all of our students when we reopen,” the school said. “As we move forward as a school community, let us pray for the life that was lost and for her family, friends and loved ones.  May her soul and the souls of all the faithfully departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.”

Anyone with information concerning this incident that may help in the investigation is asked to call the county police tip line at 1-833-ALL-TIPS. Callers can remain anonymous.

Statement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh:

Originally published September 20, 2023.

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