RICE TWP. — Many residents living on the block in which a car struck a family out for a walk Friday are calling one among them a hero.
At the time of the accident, emergency room doctor Annette Mann was just waking up in her home in Polonia Estates, a Mountain Top housing development, after having worked the night shift at Lehigh Valley Hospital, Hazleton.
When she heard the noise from the crash, she knew “something horrible” had happened, Mann said on Saturday.
She and her twin sons, 17, hurried outside and crossed the street to the scene of the crash.
“I sent one son in for my stethoscope,” she said. “And I told the other to call 911.”
Township police on Saturday released the names and medical conditions of the victims as well as the name of the driver.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation. Police say they are waiting for results of a toxicology test on the driver, and an inspection of the vehicle will be performed Monday in order to determine if the crash was caused by a vehicle malfunction.
It does not appear to be intentional, according to police.
Township police on Saturday identified Bryan Herbst, 35, and Nina Lynn Herbst, 38, as the adults who were struck on Aleksander Boulevard while walking with their four children and a female cousin.
Police said Bryan Herbst was transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township, and the other victims were taken to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
As of late Saturday afternoon, according to police, Nina Herbst and her 10-month-old daughter were in critical condition. Bryan Herbst and his 5-year old daughter were in serious condition. The 8-year-old female was in fair condition.
The couple’s 6- and 7-year-old boys had been released from the hospital.
Police identified the driver of the car as Jigna J. Kyada, 51, of Mountain Top. She was uninjured.
‘Still processing’ tragedy
Mann said that upon arriving at the accident scene, she immediately began triage, determining that Nina Lynn Herbst and her 10-month-old daughter were the most seriously injured.
“I was able to call for the Advance Life Support ambulance and request a helicopter,” she said.
Mann said that even though saving lives is “my job,” having it happen so close to home has shaken up the whole family.
“I’m still processing this,” she said.
And Mann refuses to be called a hero.
“The real heroes were people like my neighbor, a teacher, who was able to maintain an open airway for the baby,” she told police Sgt. Harry Ehret, who had stopped at her house on Saturday afternoon for a written statement. “That’s not what she was trained for.”
Eric Wanchisen, a resident of Aleksander Boulevard, also immediately responded when he heard the crash. He said he was unable to talk about what he saw.
“It was especially difficult seeing the baby,” he said.
A plea to slow down
Wanchisen said he and other neighbors have made multiple efforts to slow traffic on the street.
“I have two kids, 11 and 9. I walk them to the end of my driveway and watch them cross the street,” he said.
Wanchisen said he has made numerous attempts to contact township supervisors and request a speed bump or a three-way stop sign.
“White lines were placed on the street so that police could track speed,” he said. “I’ve only seen them do it two or three times.”
Part of the problem, he said, is that in addition to Polonia Estates, the roadway also serves as an entrance to Woodbury Manor, a neighboring development.
“There used to be a log at the end of the road at the entrance to Woodbury,” he said. “But the developer had to take it down.”
With a neighborhood filled with young families with young children, Wanchisen said he hopes the crash — whatever its cause — will serve as a wake-up call.
“Something needs to slow these drivers down,” he said.
Indeed, a large red sign at the entrance to Polonia Estates that Wanchisen said went up sometime overnight from Friday into Saturday, reads: “Drive like your kids live here.”
A fundraiser for the victims has been set up on the website YouCaring.com. The fundraiser has already exceeded its $15,000 goal.