Calif. man killed in ‘violent’ Chartiers crash

May 14, 2013
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Jim McNutt Observer-Reporter
With the fatal crash scene in the background, Washington County Coroner Tim Warco talks to the media Tuesday on Route 18 at Petronka Road in Chartiers Township. Order a Print
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Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
A Jeep crashed into a tractor-trailer on Route 18 at Petronka Road in Chartiers Township Tuesday morning, killing the driver of the Jeep. Order a Print

A man from the state of California was killed Tuesday morning in what the Washington County coroner called an “extremely violent” crash on Route 18 (Henderson Avenue) near Petronka Lane in Chartiers Township.

Justin Randall Johnson, 26, of McKinleysville, was traveling south just south of Petronka just before 10:30 a.m. when his sport utility vehicle crossed the center line and hit the tractor-trailer driven by Charles Simms, 38, of Palestine, W.Va.

Jim Amaismeier of Hickory was directly behind the tractor-trailer when the Jeep Cherokee crossed the center line.

“There was nothing the truck driver could have done,” Amaismeier said. “The Jeep just exploded. Another couple of seconds, that would have been me.”

The impact tore off the front of the tractor-trailer. Warco said the truck driver was distraught. Simms refused treatment for minor injuries.

Identifying Johnson was difficult for a time because police could not find any identification. Police, firefighters and emergency personnel searched the area around the crash scene and found his wallet in some weeds several feet from the wreckage.

Warco said it appeared Johnson worked in the gas industry and speculated that he may have been returning from work.

Route 18 was closed for four hours while police conducted the investigation and the wreckage was removed. Drivers of several trucks hauling large pieces of equipment north on Route 18 were forced to put their rigs in park because they were not able to turn around. Southbound vehicles were able to turn around in a nearby driveway. Police from Mt. Pleasant and South Strabane townships assisted with traffic control as did Chartiers firefighters. Also assisting at the scene was the state police forensic services unit.

Johnson was the ninth person killed on Washington County roads this year.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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