NEW CASTLE, Pennsylvania - A New Castle man is being held in the Lawrence County jail with no bond, and police say 66-year-old Virgil Coonfare could face even more charges after hitting and killing a child.
Authorities say Coonfare was behind the wheel of the pickup truck that hit two children playing in the yard of a residence at 941 Winslow Avenue on Sunday afternoon shortly after 2 p.m.
Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests, but say they suspect Coonfare was under the influence of two prescription drugs at the time of the accident.
Neighbor Maria Brown cried as she spoke to 21 News saying, "I feel like I should have been able to do more. But there was nothing I could do, he was already dead."
Brown says she can't get the image out of her head. She says the yellow pickup truck, allegedly driven by Coonfare, plowed right into the two little boys playing in the front yard of the Winslow Avenue residence.
The neighbor rushed to get help, saying she reassured nine-year-old Emil "Ozzie" Velez, who was alert, but injured, that help was on the way. Then she tried to comfort seven-year-old Octavious Stone who died from his injuries.
"I was rubbing his back and his hair telling him everything was going to be alright," Brown says.
Brown and other witnesses told New Castle police that the driver of the truck initially didn't even stop after running over the children.
"He was disoriented big time. Very disoriented, and he stopped right here in front of our truck, and I'm screaming at him, you just hit kids, oh my God, you just hit kids!"
It was neighbor David Moffatt who chased down the driver and made it clear he had Coonfare's license plate number, telling him police were on the way.
"And then he got out of the truck and started walking back towards the accident scene. He only had one shoe on and one sock. He was stumbling and slurring," Moffatt says.
What's both disturbing and unbelievable is that witnesses say Coonfare drove on to the sidewalk through a small opening between a utility pole and a large rock, up an embankment and into the yard to the top of the stairs hitting the two children who were simply playing at the time.
When police caught up with Coonfare, they allegedly found a prescription bottle in the cab of his truck and they say he was driving with a suspended license.
The nine-year-old survivor's grandmother, Barbara Brown, is still shaken. She says her grandson tried to push his friend Octavious to safety, but they couldn't escape the impact of the truck. While Emil Velez recovers from leg and groin injuries, his grandmother worries that what happened will haunt him forever.
"Last night he had a lot of nightmares calling Octavious," Brown said.
Coonfare made his initial appearance in court Sunday night and was ordered to be jailed with no bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for the New Castle man on December 5th at 9 a.m. in Central Court.
New Castle police have charged Coonfare with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, driving under the influence of a controlled substance and aggravated assault by a vehicle while driving under the influence.
According to the police report, a drug recognition test was performed on the suspect by a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper. It's suspected that Coonfare was under the influence of a central nervous system depressant and a narcotic analgesic, but again police are waiting for the results of toxicology tests.