KANE — In what some officials are calling one of the worst accidents in McKean County history, six people are dead — including two young children — and two others are seriously injured after two vehicles collided head-on around 4:25 p.m. Saturday on U.S. Route 219, just north of Lantz Corners in Hamlin Township.
The crash closed the highway between Route 59 and U.S. Route 6 for more than six hours while rescue teams and Kane-based state police investigated accident.
Pronounced dead at the scene were: Jarrett Costanzo, 6, of Kane and Olivia Douglas, 12, no address listed; Gary Beimel, 62, David Cuneo, 54, Elaine Beimel, 55, and Florence Donachy, 81, all of St. Marys.
McKean County Coroner Sam Cummings said the cause of death for all six people was blunt force trauma. “They all died instantly,” Cummings said.
Kathy Douglas, 36, of Kane and her 10-year-old male passenger both suffered serious injuries and were flown from the scene by medical helicopter to trauma centers for treatment.
Douglas was transported to UPMC Hamot in Erie and was listed in critical condition as of Sunday night. The 10-year-old boy, whose identity has not been released, was transported to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh by STAT MedEvac medical helicopter with serious injuries.
According to Kane-based state police, only the drivers, Douglas and Beimel, were known to have been wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. Cuneo and Olivia Douglas are listed in the police report and being unknown as to seat belt usage, while the other four individuals were not wearing seat belts, police said.
Kane-based state police trooper Roger McCloskey said the crash occurred when a red 2005 Jeep Liberty driven by Douglas, for unknown reasons, crossed over the double yellow line and collided head-on with a white 2004 Pontiac Bonneville driven by Gary Beimel.
Members of the Mount Jewett and Kane volunteer fire departments responded to the scene, along with troopers from the state police barracks in Kane and Ridgway.
Kane fire chief Tim Holt said both fire departments used all of the equipment they had on hand for extrication and noted that the combined effort was necessary.
“We utilized everything off Rescue 51, our truck,” Holt said. “It was a joint effort by both departments as far as doing all that work and everything on the vehicles.”
Holt said the state police accident reconstructionist has the task of looking at the crash and working their way backwards through it. He said the reconstructionist will usually take measurements with instruments that require specialized training. Through the use of computer technology, the reconstructionist can determine how the accident happened, according to Holt.
“They check all the different points of impact,” he said. “They’ll measure the skid marks, determine rates of speed and all the different things that make up the components of an accident.”
In memory of the deceased, a candlelight vigil was held at the Kane Area Middle School football field at 8 p.m. Sunday. Pastor Ron Burkett from the Hallton (Pa.) Church and Grace Community Church in DuBois gave the invocation to a gathered crowd of more than 300 people mourning the loss of the children.
Many football jerseys and cheerleader outfits from both the Kane Tornadoes youth football team and the Kane Wolves could be seen at the vigil.
Olivia Douglas, who was a sixth grade student at Otto-Eldred Elementary School, was described by friends and family alike as a “beautiful, vibrant girl with a lot of friends.”
Those in attendance said Olivia’s infectious smile and giggling will be remembered as much as her hard work and dedication, both in the classroom and in the community. Olivia currently cheered for the Otto Nippers cheerleading squad. She had also been a cheerleader for the Kane Tornadoes.
Organizers said a vigil was held for Olivia at the Otto Township Little Nippers baseball field on Sunday night and some remembrances are being planned for her in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Jarrett Costanzo will be remembered by many as an avid sports enthusiast and fierce competitor.
Jarrett was active in wrestling, football, and Little League baseball. He also enjoyed camping.
John Nystrom, one of Jarrett’s wrestling coaches, remembers the boy as someone who would willingly compete against someone two or three times his size — and succeed in taking the larger wrestler down. Nystrom also said that the 6-year-old would take him down during practice, and tell him, “Get up, Coach!”
Jarrett attended kindergarten at Kane Area Elementary School.
Kane Area School District Superintendent Dr. Maryann Anderson told The Era the administration was holding an emergency meeting after the vigil on Sunday evening to discuss formulating a plan to help the students and staff work through grief stemming from the tragedy.
Services for all the deceased from the crash are being developed by the Cummings and Lynch-Green funeral homes. A complete obituary for Jarrett appears on page 2 in today’s edition of The Era. Incomplete notices for the rest of those deceased also appear on page 2 in today’s edition.
Assisting on scene were members of the Kane and Mount Jewett volunteer fire departments, multiple ambulance services, STAT MedEvac medical helicopter, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, McKean County District Attorney’s Office, Pennsylvania State Police Collision and Accident Reconstructionist from Punxsutawney, representatives from the McKean County Coroner’s Office and Ridgway-based state police.