15-year-old dies in fiery school van crash, PA officials say. ‘Completely devastating’

Facebook screengrab from Serra Catholic High School

A 15-year-old girl died and several others were injured in a crash as they were being driven to their Pennsylvania school, officials say.

The crash reportedly happened around 7:25 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20, in Dravosburg and involved a van taking students to Serra Catholic High School.

Allegheny County police said the school van was trying to turn left when it was struck by a car, reported. Witnesses described the fiery aftermath.

“My husband ran over, put the fire out, and I ran over to the kids and took my sweatshirt off, started putting it on the kids, trying to help stop bleeding and keep them alert,” Jessica McCauley, who was driving her son to school, told WTAE.

School officials said 15-year-old Samantha Kalkbrenner was killed in the crash.

Three other Serra Catholic students were taken to a hospital, where they are listed in stable condition, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said. The driver of the van and car were also receiving treatment in a hospital.

The crash caused a door on the car to be ripped off and windows of the school van to be shattered, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Amy Kovka told the newspaper “parts went flying everywhere” during the collision.

“A bunch of people ran over the side, and everybody started screaming, saying that there was a child trapped underneath of the van,” Amie Nickelson, who witnessed the crash, told WTAE. “About 30 people surrounded the van and tried to lift it up off of the ground. It was just completely, completely devastating to watch. Everybody was just in a frantic trying to get this child out from underneath the van.”

Serra Catholic High School, located in a suburb of Pittsburgh, canceled classes for the remainder of the week.

Samantha’s father, Carl Kalkbrenner, described his daughter as being “as close to perfect as a child could get.”

“She loved her life and everything about it,” the father said. “If you knew her, you loved her. That’s the impact she had in this life. I will miss my baby forever, and there will forever be a hole in my heart.”

Others close to Samantha noted her infectious smile.

“Sam always had a beautiful big smile on her face during class, and had the most contagious laugh,” said Steel City Academy of Dance, where Samantha was said to be among the advanced dancers.

Sam was a kind soul who made an impact on everyone she was around, and her smile was infectious,” Portals a Fear, a haunted house where Samantha worked as an actor, said in a Facebook post.

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