Special Reports

Student had BAC of .322 at crash scene

A witness points to the scene of a pedestrian crash that involved a police cruiser around 1:40 a.m. Sunday morning. Police haven't yet released details. cdt/Sara Ganim
A witness points to the scene of a pedestrian crash that involved a police cruiser around 1:40 a.m. Sunday morning. Police haven't yet released details. cdt/Sara Ganim

STATE COLLEGE — Friends of 21-year-old Kevin Ignatuk told police the Penn State student had been drinking beer since Saturday's Blue-White game when he tried to cross Beaver Avenue around 1:40 a.m. Sunday and was hit by a police SUV.

He had a blood alcohol level of .322, a source told the Centre Daily Times.

But his family, who said he is not yet “out of the woods” said Ignatuk also is a good kid — an engineering student on the dean’s list with a 3.7 GPA. He is from Thornton, and graduated from West Chester East High School with a 4.0 GPA.

“... He is an excellent student who spends most nights hitting the books,” said his cousin, Jean Ignatuk. “He’s an engineering major and last semester had a 4.0 GPA. You can’t do that if you’re out drinking every night.”

Ignatuk has been at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville in critical condition since the crash.

His aunt, Liz Ignatuk, said her nephew was in surgery Tuesday for internal bleeding.

“He has played ice hockey and golf since childhood and excels at both,” Liz Ignatuk wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. “He is kind, generous, and would do anything to help someone in need. Last night, while lying in his hospital bed in intensive care, on a ventilator and unable to speak, he wrote that he was concerned about the project that he and another student had been working on this semester, and he wanted the Penn State liaison for emergencies to come and see him because he is concerned about completing the semester.”

Questions regarding the police investigation into the crash were referred by State College police to state police at Rockview, who then referred questions to Trooper David Roland in Hollidaysburg, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

A search warrant that police filed Monday for Ignatuk’s medical records — specifically his blood alcohol content when he was rushed to Geisinger — revealed that his friends had been drinking with him since around the time of the Blue- White football scrimmage at 2 p.m.

According to the warrant, Ignatuk was on his way to McDonald’s with his friend Matthew Barbella and his roommate, Benjamin Cuddy. Both live at 456 E. Beaver

Ave. — the apartment complex directly in front of the crash scene.

Barbella, according to surveillance footage from the building, was “sprinting” across the street just before Ignatuk, and, according to the officer’s account, narrowly missed being hit. Surveillance video shows Ignatuk “jogging” behind his friend, police wrote, across the street before the crash.

Barbella told police he had been with Ignatuk earlier that day and had seen him drink three Redbridge beers at the game. Later, he saw him drink more beer, police wrote.

Cuddy said Ignatuk was “drunk” at the time, police wrote.

According to court records, Ignatuk was previously cited twice for alcohol-related offenses — once for underage drinking in December 2007 and for public drunkenness in January.

According to the crash report, Sgt. Bill Muse was driving the SUV, and told a fellow officer that he was probably going between 30 and 35 mph when the crash happened. The speed limit is 25 mph. He said it was raining, the roads were wet, and he hit the brakes but couldn’t stop in time. His attention had been directed to Barbella just before the crash, the report says.

Barbella later told police he had to “hustle” to get across the street safely, the search warrant says. Cuddy told police Ignatuk “did not look” when he tried to cross, following Barbella.

“As I am sure you know, pedestrians jaywalk all the time in State College,” Liz Ignatuk wrote. “The policeman should not have been speeding in the rain down the hill where he could not see very far ahead of him — he knew kids were out partying. Yes, Kevin got drunk on a Saturday night. So do many, many PSU students. Jan. 30th, when he was cited, was also a Saturday. Yes, Kevin jaywalked. So do many, many residents of State College. The bottom line is that if the cop had not been speeding, Kevin might not have been hit at all, or at least his injuries would not have been so severe.”

A witness who was standing on the sidewalk when the crash happened said he saw Ignatuk doing a “hopping jog” across the street. Right before that, David J. Harrison said, about nine cars started accelerating from the intersection of Garner Street and Beaver Avenue because the light turned from red to green.

“I thought he was speeding,” Harrison said of the police cruiser.

Muse, who other witnesses said was very upset after the crash, immediately attended to Ignatuk, who was bleeding from the head and had a visibly “deformed” left leg.

Sara Ganim can be reached at 231-4616.

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