Ambulances & Vehicle Ops, News

Attorney Argues Fatal Ambulance Crash Negligent, Not Criminal

GREENSBURG, Pa. — Criminal charges should be dismissed against an ambulance driver charged with causing a fatal crash that killed a Westmoreland County (Pa.) prison guard because it is not a crime to run through a red light, an attorney argued Wednesday.

Jason R. Fait, 31, of North Huntingdon, was arrested last year after authorities concluded that his actions caused the death of Frank Scalise Jr. of Murrysville in the early-morning hours of Oct. 30, 2006.

Fait ran a red light at the intersection of Route 130 and South Greengate Road in Hempfield, police said. Fait, who was at the wheel of a Penn Township Rescue 6 ambulance, was not responding to a call.

Scalise, 46, of Murrysville was on his way to work at the Westmoreland County Prison when his car was hit by Fait’s ambulance. He died a week later of injuries sustained in the crash.

Fait was charged with a felony offense of vehicular homicide and summary traffic citations.

Defense attorney Ken Burkley conceded yesterday that Fait ignored the traffic signal. But that fact alone would not merit the felony charge, Burkley contended.

Fait was neither speeding nor attempting to make it through the intersection before the signal turned from green to red, Burkley said.

He argued that for prosecutors to sustain the vehicular homicide charge, they would have to show that Fait was both reckless and negligent when he drove through the red light.

“It’s just a negligent act and not a criminal violation. Negligence alone doesn’t make it a crime,” Burkley said. “At worst, it shows inattentiveness, and that’s not a crime.”

Westmoreland County Judge Debra Pezze directed prosecutors to file written legal arguments within 20 days.

Assistant District Attorney Wayne Gongaware said those arguments would reaffirm the prosecution’s stance that criminal charges are warranted against Fait.

“It is our opinion that going through a red light and killing someone is a reckless act,” Gongaware said.