Cause of fatal Interstate 279 crash remains under investigation

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The husband of the Harmony woman who died in a head-on collision on Interstate 279 that killed another driver said Tuesday he knew it was his wife's vehicle an hour before the Butler County coroner's office told him about the fatal crash Monday night.

Kenneth Tua, 46, said he began to suspect something was wrong after he made numerous phones calls to his wife, Amy, about 7:30 p.m.

According to police, the accident happened after 8 p.m.

Mr. Tua said his 45-year-old wife was heading to Bellevue to visit her mother. He said the "time was way past overdue on a trip that normally takes about 40 minutes to get home."

"I saw on the 10 o'clock news that two people were killed in a wreck, and I immediately recognized the vehicle," Mr. Tua said.

Ms. Tua's vehicle crossed from the northbound lanes into oncoming traffic near the Camp Horne Road exit in Ohio Township and collided with a car driven by Gary Helba II, 42, of Pittsburgh.

Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

The reason for Ms. Tua crossing into opposing traffic is still unclear. Toxicology results are pending, according to the Allegheny County medical examiner's office.

The Tuas were married for 16 years. They didn't have any children, but Mr. Tua said his wife loved children and worked at the Allegheny County's Office of Children, Youth and Families for 17 years.

Mr. Tua desribed his wife as both religious and adventurous. They dreamed of retiring in Italy after their only visit there.

"At a troubling time like this, I wanted to give my honest to God perspective of my wife and hope it touches someone," Mr. Tua said.

Mr. Helba's wife, Whitney, 27, chose not to comment. A friend of the family, Kristen Shidemantle, who spoke on her behalf, said Mr. Helba loved Marvel comics and Star Wars.

"We will miss his playful, kid-like manner, everyone will," Ms. Shidemantle said. Mr. Helba is originally from Weirton, W.Va., and moved to Pittsburgh for a job. Pittsburgh was also where he found his wife.

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Kelton Brooks: kbrooks@post-gazette.com. First Published July 22, 2013 6:15 PM


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