Scene of the crash: The remnants of a fatal accident are shown on Sunday morning in Holmesburg.
A wall of flames and explosions engulfed a stretch of Torresdale Avenue in Holmesburg early Sunday when a speeding car struck an illegally parked tractor-trailer, claiming the lives of three women who were inside the car.
Video of the flames recorded by a witness and broadcast by 6ABC documented the ferocity of the disaster. Philadelphia police said that the accident occurred at about 2:43 a.m. on the 8000 block of Torresdale Ave.
The three victims were traveling northbound in a black 2015 Chevy Camaro when the driver lost control of the vehicle, swerved into the southbound lane and struck a parked, unattended tractor-trailer, police said. Both vehicles caught fire. The women died in the blaze.
The tractor-trailer was holding a load of hazardous materials — reportedly herbicides. Fuel leaked from the vehicles, traveled about 100 feet down a hill and ignited a second tractor-trailer that also was parked and unattended, police said. The flames also ignited a PECO utility pole.
Police identified the driver as Amonie Nicole Barton, 25, of Yeadon, Delaware County. The front-seat passenger was Giavanna Scavo, 22, from the 800 block of Brighton St. in Burholme. Investigators were still trying to confirm the identity of the third victim, a rear-seat passenger identified only as Jane Doe.
According to various published reports, witnesses said they saw the Camaro cross Rhawn Street at a high rate of speed and become airborne after hitting a hump in the street. A police commander who responded to the scene, Capt. Anthony Ginaldi, told reporters that one man who saw the crash attempted to rescue the entrapped women, but the flames repelled him.
“A witness on the scene said that he could hear people screaming from inside the car and attempted to render aid to them, but he couldn’t get to the vehicle due to the flames,” Ginaldi said.
Torresdale Avenue remained closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic between Rhawn Street and Enfield Avenue throughout Sunday as officials investigated the accident, worked to mitigate any leakage of hazardous materials and worked to restore utilities. A portion of Holmesburg reportedly lost cable television, telephone and Internet service for much of Sunday.
City Councilman Bobby Henon, whose 6th district includes the location of the crash, noted that it’s illegal for trucks to park in the 8000 block of Torresdale Ave. between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., although tractor-trailers are routinely seen parked there day and night. There are “no truck parking” signs posted on Torresdale, according to the councilman.
“They were illegal to be parked there and one truck having flammable material is another question,” Henon said.
Residents of Holmesburg and Upper Holmesburg have complained for years about tractor-trailers parking along Torresdale Avenue for hours at a time, apparently as a cost-free alternative to a legitimate truck rest area. In addition to the Torresdale and Rhawn area, trucks usually park on Torresdale near the ramps for the Academy Road interchange of Interstate 95. Numerous accidents have been reported involving passing vehicles and parked trucks, which are too wide to fit within the marked shoulder of the street.
As a result of these complaints, Henon drafted a proposed ordinance that would prohibit tractor-trailer parking on Torresdale, from Rhawn Street to Linden Avenue. Some Holmesburg residents had concerns about the language in the bill, so Henon postponed its introduction pending a redraft.
Nonetheless, Henon worked with the Streets Department to institute a temporary ban on truck parking on the same street on a trial basis, pending the passage of a permanent ordinance. The “no truck parking” signs are on order and will be posted once they arrive, Henon said.
Relatives and friends of the victims gathered near the scene on Sunday night for a vigil. Mourners left photos of the victims, lit candles, flowers and stuffed animals at a makeshift memorial.
Barton’s public Facebook profile uses the name “Amonie Hill.” In it, she identified herself as a Penn Wood High School alumna and criminal justice student at ITT Tech. She had worked as a ramp agent for US Airways since August 2011, according to the profile.
Scavo used the name “Gia Abgarian” on her public Facebook profile. She identified herself as a Philadelphia Academy Charter High School alumna and criminal justice student at Penn State, as well as an administrative assistant for Bath Fitter. ••