Spring Township man charged with vehicular homicide

Reading Eagle: Susan Keen | The scene of a five-vehicle crash on July 20 on southbound Route 222 near the merge ramp to Route 422 westbound. The crash killed a Leesport woman and injured nine other people.

Saturday December 2, 2017 12:00 AM

Written by Steven Henshaw

A Spring Township man who crashed his pickup truck into several vehicles on Route 222 in July, resulting in the death of a Leesport grandmother, has been charged with homicide by vehicle, authorities said Friday.

Charges against Kyle R. Reidenhour, 24, followed a nearly five-month investigation by Spring Township police and Berks County detectives.

Reidenhour of the 100 block of Springside Drive turned himself in to authorities Friday morning after an arrest warrant was obtained Wednesday by police. He remained free to await arraignment after video arraignment before District Judge Ann L. Young.

Besides vehicular homicide, he faces charges of aggravated assault by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving and related summary traffic counts.

Beverly Greenwalt, 78, was driving on Route 222 heading to a Johnny Mathis concert in Reading — a Mother’s Day gift from her two daughters — when Reidenhour’s pickup truck slammed into the back of the vehicle, pushing the trunk into the driver’s seat, investigators said.

She was declared dead at the scene.

One of Greenwalt’s daughters, Cindy Conti, was a passenger in the car and was among the nine people injured in the five-vehicle crash, police said.

The crash occurred on a clear, sunny day at 4:21 p.m. between the Broadcasting Road and Route 422 west interchanges. According to investigators, Reidenhour told police in his second interview that he believed he fell asleep moments before the crash.

According to investigators, a forensic inspection of Reidenhour’s Ford F-150 truck included a review of digital data retrieved from the event data recorder, or EDR, which is similar to the black box of an aircraft. The data revealed the truck was traveling at 74 mph about one second before the crash, covering a distance of 59 feet. At that speed, investigators calculated the driver would have needed a minimum of 498 feet to safely stop the vehicle to avoid a crash.

Investigators said Reidenhour gave the following account in interviews with Spring Township Officer Mark McCreary, the lead investigator:

Reidenhour said he was driving home from his manual labor job in Allentown after completing a 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift. He said he was familiar with the highway and that traffic congestion routinely occurs on that part of Route 222.

He initially claimed he was alert at the time of the crash, but later admitted that he was exhausted due to working in the heat and enduring several nights of restless sleep. Reidenhour said he was extremely drowsy as he drove home and was fighting the urge to sleep for miles before the crash scene. He said he knew he should have pulled over, but thought that he could make it home because he was so close.

As he approached the Broadcasting Road overpass, he said a vehicle was passing on the left and another was merging on the right from the Broadcasting Road on-ramp. He said he was going between 57 mph and 60 mph and that he may have accelerated to get ahead of one of the vehicles.

In a follow-up interview, Reidenhour told McCreary that he had placed his right arm on the center console and rested his chin in his hand and briefly while driving and closed his eyes. He said that when he reopened his eyes he saw brake lights just feet in front of him. He said he stomped on a pedal but did not know if it was the brake or the accelerator pedal.

“Reidenhour was convinced that he had fallen asleep,” McCreary wrote in the probable cause affidavit.

Contact Steven Henshaw: 610-371-5024 or shenshaw@readingeagle.com