McGuffey student killed in one-car crash

July 31, 2013
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Emily Harger / Observer-Reporter
Shown is the car of Sierra Minor, 16, who was killed in a car accident on Brush Run Road in Independence Township late Tuesday. Order a Print
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Sierra Minor

A one-vehicle accident late Tuesday has claimed another young life on Washington County roads, this time a 16-year-old student in McGuffey School District.

Washington County Coroner Tim Warco and state police said Sierra Minor, 16, of Pleasant Grove Road near Claysville, died when the car she was driving too fast crashed into a tree, seriously injuring four passengers, just shy of midnight along Brush Run Road in Independence Township. Police said alcohol likely was a factor in the accident.

Meanwhile, Smith Township police were still investigating whether alcohol played a role in a crash Saturday on Joffre-Bulger Road that claimed the lives of best friends Joseph M. Bowland, 20, of McDonald, and Michael Dillon Gregg, 22, of Bulger.

State police said Wednesday they had yet to identify the four passengers in Minor’s car whose injuries ranged from serious to critical. None of the four passengers was wearing a seat belt in the 11:56 p.m. accident. Police identified them only as two 15-year-old girls, a 21-year-old man and a male with an unknown date of birth, all of Washington.

Police said Minor was traveling east in normal traffic conditions near the West Virginia line when she lost control of the car on a sharp left curve. It traveled off the road, slammed into a tree and flipped over once before landing on its wheels beside the tree.

She was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:42 a.m. Wednesday, having died of blunt-force injuries, Warco said. He ruled the death accidental.

Minor’s sister, Traci Gareis of Prosperity, said Sierra was very outgoing. “I was 23 when she was born and I thought she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. She was a very lovable kid.”

Gareis said Minor lived with her mother, Janey West. She said one of the passengers was a relative, who suffered a broken arm and has been released from the hospital.

McGuffey Superintendent Beverly Arbore issued a statement Wednesday that the entire community is “deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our student.”

“I have spoken with Sierra’s sister to express our condolences and offer our support,” Arbore said. “No family should ever have to experience this type of tragedy.”

Arbore said the school district did not know the identities of the passengers in the vehicle.

The founder of Common Ground Teen Center in Washington decided to open the office an hour early Wednesday after receiving a string of calls from young people who wanted to talk about the death.

“I’m hearing a lot of anger,” said Mary Jo Podgurski, president of the Academy for Adolescent Health, which runs the center.

She said other callers wanted to know “Why would someone take the risk?”

“Sometimes they just need an adult to guide them along. Obviously drugs and alcohol stuff was going on here. This is a real teachable moment because they need to understand this is risky business.”

A Trinity Area High School graduate who knew Sierra, Bridget Dever, said the girl was kind, enthusiastic and made friends easily.

“When Sierra was around you couldn’t help but to laugh and want to talk to her. I know Sierra will be greatly missed by all the friends and family she has touched.”

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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