By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
THE PITTSBURGH Steelers are struggling. Who cares! The Cleveland Browns have battled tough injuries. Who cares!
The Shenango Valley community is in mourning. The glory of four victories by Mercer County Class A football teams was forgotten quickly Friday night because of the deaths of two Sharon High football players.
A tragic accident on Connelly Boulevard (the Shenanago Valley Freeway) just west of the Oakland Avenue Viaduct put into perspective the difference between sports and real life. More specifically, the end of life.
Two Sharon football players — Corey Swartz and Evan Gill — were killed and the Osmon twins, Greg and Craig, left in critical condition at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Youngstown.
The driver of a pick-up that collided head-on with the SUV that reportedly crossed the center line while carrying the players was also killed while two youngsters in the back of the pick-up were slightly injured and taken to hospitals.
The four players were coming back from Hickory High stadium where they had watched West Middlesex defeat Cochranton. I’m sure they were discussing their scheduled game this afternoon against Girard — a game that was canceled in light of the tragedy Saturday.
The team pulled together and decided to play the game Monday for those who couldn’t be there. And I’m sure that’s what Evan and Corey would have wanted.
It was a bad, bad accident. I was one of the first people at the scene, also coming back from the game, and did what I could to help until emergency units arrived.
Why did it happen? Details are still being pieced together. But one thing for sure, there needs to be lessons learned from this tragedy. Speed obviously played a role from the damage to the vehicles.
And a key lesson for every young person who climbs into a car is to strap on a seat belt, which was obviously not done here. I realize that every youngster thinks he or she is invincible. But this accident should drive home the fact that you aren’t. And while wearing a seat belt doesn’t guarantee you won’t be killed, it increases the chance of living 10-fold.
And there is also a lesson for Sharon City Council and PennDOT. Get a barrier set up in that part of the freeway, just as you have through most of the rest of the freeway in Sharon and Hermitage. Even though the speed limit is 40 mph, people fly up and down that piece of road.
I ran into former Sharon Police Chief/Mayor Dave Ryan Saturday morning and he said, “I fought for years to get barriers there, but the businesses complained. Hey, it only takes a minute more to go around.”
There are many businesses in Hermitage shut off to one way traffic and they have no trouble surviving. With “surviving” being the key word here, not only for the businesses but for people who avoided possible fatal accidents. Ryan said these are not the first deaths on that stretch of the freeway.
I have actually seen cars and trucks bounce off the barriers in Hermitage, but there’s a big difference between a few scrapes on a vehicle and a head-on collision.
Several people helped at the scene until emergency crews arrived and should be commended for their strength in the face of great adversity. The firefighters, police and ambulance personnel did a tremendous, well-coordinated job although the strain of such a scene shown on just about every face. How could it not?
All of us who have children or grandchildren can’t help but think how it would feel for our families to suffer the loss of our young people.
In football, you stick together as a team. As a community you do the same thing when people are in need or in pain. If you’re religious, say a prayer for those families of everyone involved in that crash. If you aren’t, send positive thoughts of hope to them as best you can.
I usually make my weekly NFL predictions at the end of this column. Not today.
And on Monday: GO TIGERS!
Lynn Saternow is sports editor of The Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.