State College police said a Penn State student’s speed directly caused her to lose control of her vehicle on Sept. 12 on the Mount Nittany Expressway, ultimately causing the death of 47-year-old Robert Bloom, of Bellefonte.
Nailah Oliver, 20, was charged Wednesday with a third-degree felony count of homicide by vehicle, misdemeanor charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment, along with multiple summaries, including driving nearly 30 mph over the 55 mph speed limit.
According to the police investigation, Oliver was driving westbound on U.S. Route 322 just past Branch Road at 7:45 a.m. when she lost control of her 2001 Chevy Malibu, crossed the grassy median and struck Bloom’s Ford Focus head-on as he was driving east with his 15-year-old son in the passenger’s seat. Bloom’s vehicle was then forced to the right and struck by a crane truck.
Bloom was pronounced dead at the scene, while his son was transported to Mount Nittany Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. Oliver also was also checked out at Mount Nittany for minor injuries.
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The coroner’s report listed Bloom’s cause of death as blunt force trauma.
Oliver told police she was traveling to her 8 a.m. class at Penn State, but denied being in a hurry to get there. She is listed in the university’s directory as an undergraduate student studying engineering science.
“I started to drift to the right. There was a car to the right of me. I tried to pull my car back into the middle of the lane, but it starts drifting to the left — my car starts to oscillate and then it touches the grass,” Oliver allegedly told police. “It was wet. I might have over corrected it in order to pull myself back straight. It pulls to the left. It was hard to keep control of the steering wheel.”
Police also executed a search warrant on Oliver’s vehicle and an officer determined her left front tire failed and would not have passed inspection — though it was never inspected.
Instead, her inspection and emissions stickers were allegedly stolen from another vehicle, her vehicle had an expired registration and was not covered by insurance.
The search warrant also allowed Frank Gaus, a Pennsylvania state police collision analysis and reconstruction expert, to study her airbag sensors.
According to his report, Oliver “never touched the brakes prior to the collision and that she was in fact depressing the accelerator pedal prior to impact.” Gaus’ report indicates that she was traveling 84 mph five seconds before the crash. One second before the crash, she was traveling 52 mph and depressing the accelerator 58 percent.
Police have not yet determined if drugs and/or alcohol were a factor in the crash.
Oliver was arraigned Wednesday by District Judge Thomas Jordan and released on $25,000 unsecured bail. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20.