DUI suspected in crash that killed young sisters

They left their new Oxford Circle home in search of a midnight snack, but now their family and friends are mourning the deaths of a young woman and her 10-year-old sister on Roosevelt Boulevard.

Motorist Kenneth Ruch was allegedly drunk when he plowed his Jeep Wrangler into Kimberly Phillips, 19, and Loraya Braxton, 10, late on Saturday night at the Boulevard and Large Street. The impact hurled the pedestrian victims 150 to 200 feet across the roadway and killed both. Phillips died at the scene, while Braxton perished less than an hour later at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

Philadelphia police said that the crash happened at 11:42 p.m. Phillips and Braxton were crossing the Boulevard eastbound. They were in a crosswalk but proceeding against a red light, police said, citing witness accounts. Ruch, 48, was driving southbound at a high rate of speed in the inner lanes when he appeared to accelerate in an attempt to beat a traffic light that was changing from green to yellow, police said. As his Jeep swerved into the left lane, it struck the teen and her sister.

After the impact, Ruch proceeded southbound and turned off of the Boulevard, but police spotted him moments later near Van Kirk Street and placed him into custody. Ruch, of the 8100 block of Henry Ave., was charged with homicide by vehicle, DUI, involuntary manslaughter and related offenses.

In an interview with 6ABC, the victims’ mother, Loretta Phillips-Boykin, said that the family had moved from West Philly to the 6000 block of Large St. about one week earlier attempting to flee the violence of their old neighborhood.

“My family’s torn. My family’s facing pain,” Phillips-Boykin said.

Relatives and friends held a vigil for the victims on Monday night, when they placed candles and stuffed toys around a utility pole and released dozens of purple helium balloons into the sky. They called for safety improvements on the Boulevard, such as a lower speed limit and better enforcement.

Last May, the city’s Office for Transportation and Infrastructure Services launched a three-year, $5 million study of the Boulevard from Hunting Park to the Neshaminy Mall in Bucks County with the objective of compiling recommendations to improve its safety, accessibility and reliability as a transportation corridor. The Route for Change program is funded by a U.S. Department of Transportation grant along with contributions from PennDOT and SEPTA. Information is available via rooseveltblvd.com. ••