ELK TWP. - State police have filed a summary traffic violation charge against a 66-year-old Kossuth woman who was allegedly at the wheel of a vehicle that struck and killed an Amish man as he drove his buggy along U.S. Route 322 in Elk Township Jan. 14, 2020.
Pamela J. Raybuck is charged with careless driving, a summary offense. According to online information, a motorist convicted of careless driving generally faces up to 90 days in jail and/or a maximum $300 in fines.
However, if the offense involved serious bodily injuries to another person, the fine is fixed at $250; and for violations that resulted in a death, the fine is set at $500.
As of the deadline for this edition of the newspaper, Raybuck had not entered a plea to the charge and no fine had been levied. The charge was filed by state police Tpr. Evan J. Cyphert Sept. 7 at District Judge Jarah Heeter's office in Knox.
According to state police reports, Raybuck struck and killed 39-year-old David Coblentz of Shippenville at 5:33 p.m. Jan. 14, 2020.
Coblentz was driving a horse-drawn two-wheeled buggy when he was struck from behind by Raybuck's 2015 Buick Enclave.
Police report the buggy was pushed "quite some distance" before the horse and the buggy traveled over the top of the Enclave.
Raybuck was wearing a seat belt and was not injured.
Clarion County Coroner David Shingledecker pronounced Coblentz dead at the scene. The horse also was killed in the crash.
Decision on charges
Contacted by the CLARION NEWS, Clarion County District Attorney Drew Welsh explained the decision in charging Raybuck.
"The summary charge was filed after an in-depth investigation," Welsh wrote in an email exchange. "The decision was based on multiple factors including witness statements regarding the visibility of the buggy, an accident reconstruction, a recreation of the visibility of the lights that may have been active on the buggy, as well as a review of medical/vision documentation of Ms. Raybuck, and the fact that a jury would not be permitted to have knowledge of her prior fatal crash."
Welsh explained in order to charge Raybuck with more than a summary offense would have required that her driving that evening was reckless or grossly negligent.
"The jury instruction that defines those terms states the jury would have to find that "she is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death will result from his or her conduct, the nature and degree of the risk being such that it is grossly unreasonable for her to disregard it," wrote Welsh.
The district attorney concluded, "Based on the review of the investigation and consultation with the assigned troopers, I reached the conclusion that the evidence did not support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt for any charge above a summary offense."
Welsh acknowledged there had been questions about Raybuck's vision and ability to drive at night. At the time of the crash, nightfall had occurred.
"In response to the speculation about her driving or vision, I can say that she was licensed to drive and followed all of the restrictions imposed by PennDOT," said Welsh. "I can't get into the specifics of her medical/vision records, but do believe I can say that her vision was sufficient under the law to operate a vehicle."
Previous fatal crash
Raybuck was charged with homicide by vehicle as a third-degree felony and other charges in March of 2002 stemming from an incident at 7:57 p.m. Nov. 1, 2001, at the intersection of Main Street and Keatley Place in Clarion Borough.
Raybuck, then 46, was traveling along Main Street when she struck William F. Woodley, 66, Clarion, while he was in a Main Street crosswalk.
Raybuck was also charged with involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree misdemeanor, and careless driving, reckless driving and failing to yield the right-of-way of pedestrians in crosswalks, summary offenses.
According to online court records, Raybuck eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree misdemeanor and reckless endangerment of another person, a second-degree misdemeanor, and was sentenced to time served and a $1,483 fine.
Online court records do not indicate how much time Raybuck served.
History of eye problems
According to 2002 news reports published in the CLARION NEWS, the day after the crash that killed Woodley, police received anonymous tips Raybuck had a vision impairment that limited her driving ability.
As a result of those tips along with investigative leads, police obtained a search warrant for Raybuck's place of employment and at the office of her eye doctor.
According to court records, evidence collected revealed Raybuck suffered from vision impairment known as macular degeneration of the eyes. The impairment causes loss in sight in the central part of the field of vision but leaves peripheral vision intact.
Again, according to court records, documents obtained at Raybuck's eye doctor indicated Raybuck had sufficient knowledge of her impairment and she was personally instructed by a doctor that her ability to drive a car was restricted to daytime driving only and she was not permitted to drive during hours of darkness.
Raybuck allegedly told police she was traveling west on Main Street when she hit Woodley. Raybuck alleged she didn't see Woodley until immediately prior to impact. Raybuck said she stopped as soon as possible after the impact.
Raybuck said she was not drinking but she was taking an allergy type medication for her eyes.