Father seeks answers in fatal Pa. accident

Posted: April 5, 2014 - 4:01am


ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Emery Black used to make his father crazy with his constant phone calls.

He would phone Charlie Black morning and night, just to see how his father was, what he was doing and if he wanted to go and get coffee.

"Eat'n Park was our office. We used to go have coffee all the time," said Charlie Black, 74.

He said he would give Emery "heck" for calling him all the time, but the calls kept coming.

The calls stopped the night of Feb. 21, when Emery Black, 51, died hours after a car hit him as he walked across Liberty Street.

"And now I miss it," Charlie Black said.

Compounding the pain Charlie Black said he feels from losing his son are the actions of the person who hit him. The driver never stopped, never reported the accident and has never come forward to accept responsibility for it.

"What bothers me most is how somebody can walk away. Drunk, sober, I don't know what it is. But I think you'd want to go back and do something," he said.

Erie police have had little to go on in their investigation of the fatal accident besides some scant eyewitness information and blurry surveillance video images of a car suspected in the hit-and-run, which occurred in the 1500 block of Liberty Street.

Cpl. Anthony Letkiewicz, an Erie police accident investigator, said he visited the accident scene the next day but found no evidence, such as pieces of the vehicle, that could help him determine what type of vehicle hit Emery Black. He also hasn't been able to identify or locate the driver of a light-colored car seen passing the suspected vehicle seconds before the accident.

A friend who works at Sudsy's Coin Laundry, 1507 Liberty St., said Black, who regularly visited the business, had stopped by on the night of Feb. 20. After leaving the business, Black walked west across Liberty Street toward his apartment in a red brick building at 1520 Liberty St., where he had lived for years, his father said.

According to Letkiewicz, Black crossed Liberty Street "at an angle" and headed toward his neighbor's driveway at 1526 Liberty St. The road was lined with mounds of plowed snow, which Black couldn't climb over, and he headed toward the driveway because it was plowed, Letkiewicz said.

A witness traveling north in the left lane of Liberty Street saw Black crossing the street and thought that Black had better hurry up or an approaching southbound car had better slow down, Letkiewicz said. As the witness thought that, Black was hit by the car, Letkiewicz said.

Black was thrown a short distance onto the curb. Emergency personnel who responded to the accident said Black had suffered head and chest injuries and was unresponsive when he was rushed to UPMC Hamot.

The accident was reported at 7:18 p.m. on Feb. 20.

Charlie Black said he was sitting at home in Summit Township, watching television and preparing to take a shower, when he received a call from the emergency room at UPMC Hamot. The caller told him that Emery "is in very, very critical condition," and that he had better come to the hospital right away, he said.

"He was a mess," Charlie Black said, shaking his head.

Emery Black died at the hospital at 4:40 a.m. on Feb. 21. An autopsy determined that he died of multiple blunt-force trauma, Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook said.

Police obtained surveillance video from a business on the east side of Liberty Street. After analyzing it, they determined that the vehicle involved was likely a red or maroon sedan, Letkiewicz said.

There would be damage to the passenger side of the car, from the front bumper to possibly the hood and windshield, he added.

Investigators received information from the public in their efforts to find the car. But so far, nothing has led them to it, Letkiewicz said.

Charlie Black said Emery, the second oldest of his eight children, was "kind of a loner" who loved to hunt and fish. Black, a U.S. Army veteran, used to help his father with his home construction business, but he had a nerve disorder and could no longer work.

"I have a wood shop. He used to come up to the house and help around," Charlie Black said.

Charlie Black went looking for photographs of his son after Emery's death, but had a hard time finding any. He was missing in almost all of the photos of family gatherings and other special events, mainly, Charlie Black believes, because Emery was "always too busy doing something else."

"I'm dumbfounded with it. I just wish someone would come forward," he said. "The longer it goes, the harder it would be for someone ..."

Charlie Black then paused and squeezed his hands together while staring at the ground, steps from where his son was hit.

"I don't know ... and you know, I miss my son," he said.