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Westmoreland Neighborhoods
Fatal accident snarls Rt. 51 traffic -- again

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

By Jan Ackerman, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

For the second time in two weeks, a fatal crash disrupted morning rush-hour traffic on Route 51 in Westmoreland County.

The northbound lanes of Route 51 were closed for more than five hours yesterday morning after one man died in a three-vehicle crash at 7:18 a.m. at Route 51 and Darr Road near the border of Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

The victim, who was driving south, was trying to turn left onto Darr Road from the left lane of Route 51, when his vehicle was struck from the rear by a van driven by Michael Joseph Lapko, 43, of West Mifflin.

Police said the impact caused the victim's vehicle to travel into the northbound lane, where it struck a Honda Accord operated by Ernest Brown Jr., 36, of Uniontown.

Lapko was not injured. Brown was treated for chest and hand injuries at Uniontown Hospital.

Rostraver police said the identity of the man who died would not be released until today because his family had not yet been notified.

Both northbound lanes of Route 51 were closed and southbound traffic was restricted until 1:05 p.m. Northbound traffic was rerouted through Perry.

On Aug. 5, another serious accident snarled morning rush-hour traffic on Route 51 in Rostraver. One person died and two others were injured in that crash involving three cars and a tractor-trailer.

Police said a station wagon pulled across the southbound lanes of Route 51 at McHenry Drive at 5:34 a.m. and was waiting for northbound traffic to clear. The wagon was hit by a southbound truck hauling groceries. The truck tipped onto its side, slid into the northbound lanes, and hit a sport utility vehicle and a Jeep.

The driver of the sport utility vehicle, Joseph E. Young, 47, of Uniontown, was killed in the collision. The truck driver and Jeep driver both were injured.

Because of the accident, portions of Route 51 were closed that morning, disrupting traffic.

Jan Ackerman can be reached at jackerman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1370.

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