The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 29, 2013

Deaths on the bridge need active response


Daily Item

---- — On a slow day, Veterans Memorial Bridge, despite its design flaws, is as safe as a Sunday drive in the country. At rush hour, it can resemble a stretch of the Grand Prix at Le Mans.

Two lanes feed the bridge on either end and two lanes exit the span in different directions on either side -- requiring drivers to sort their lanes eastbound and westbound according to how they enter and where they are going.

There is no barrier between opposing traffic streams and, regularly, there are drivers with unresolved personality disorders who feel compelled to cut in and out of the flow for the sake of gaining a car length or two.

It is a testament to caution and skill that there are not more mishaps on that bridge, which is lightly policed, even though it is the major artery for Sunbury workers who sleep nights on the western bank.

Nine months ago, a terrible head-on collision resulted in the deaths of a young father and his 3-year-old son, one of the worst and most tragic accidents in recent memory. Since then, survivors of the deceased have received occasional updates, but investigations into the cause and possible charges associated with the deaths have been uncommonly slow.

The delays have been for various reasons at various times. Most recently, lack of resolution has been attributed to the absence of witnesses who might have seen the moment of impact.

It may be a long shot these many months later to hope such a witness will come forward. For the sake of the families directly involved, the possibility must be explored.

The extra time required in this case may not entirely be a question of witnesses and evidence. The Northumberland County District Attorney's office has repeatedly raised the issue of limited resources, due to budgeting squeezes, and there are two homicide cases in line ahead of the fatal bridge accident.

It may be time to revisit the county's financial priorities. Is it possible to invest in special investigators or prosecutors? Matters of life and death and public safety belong closer to the head of the line of spending priorities.

For those who travel the bridge and those who no longer can, the questions raised in this case deserve more focus than a nine-month delay and a place in line until understaffed lawyers can free up some time.