Lehigh Valley

Police: Driver in fatal wreck in Allentown doing 65 mph at impact

Crash killed woman, her grandchild

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - An investigator testified Wednesday that the Bucks County woman accused of killing an Allentown woman and her grandchild last month was driving about 65 mph when she slammed into their car at South Fourth and Susquehanna streets.

District Magistrate Jacob Hammond sent all charges against Maria C. Eiseman to Lehigh County Court following her preliminary hearing Wednesday morning. The 32-year-old Warminster woman remains in the Lehigh County Jail on a slew of charges that include involuntary manslaughter and vehicular homicide. She’s failed to post $300,000 bail.

Allentown police said Eiseman was driving her Ford Fiesta north on South Fourth Street about 10:30 p.m. January 3 when she collided with a car driven by 47-year-old Christina Watkins-Rivera. Eiseman allegedly ran a red light and collided with Watkins-Rivera’s Infiniti, which was eastbound on Susquehanna Street.

Watkins-Rivera and her 7-year-old granddaughter were pronounced dead at the hospital, and two other grandchildren were treated and released.

Allentown police Sgt. David McDonald testified that a city traffic camera mounted in the northeast corner of the intersection captured Eiseman speeding through a red light and t-boning Watkins-Rivera’s car. The judge, assistant district attorney and defense attorney watched the video on McDonald’s laptop. It was not shown to the public.

McDonald testified that his calculations showed Eiseman was driving between 53 mph and 67 mph at the point of impact. Data collected by sensors in her car put the speed at about 65 mph, he said.

Other sensor data showed Eiseman was driving as fast as 85 mph in the area of the McDonald’s and Sunrise Diner, which McDonald testified was about 350 feet from the intersection. The posted speed limit is 40 mph, and the sergeant testified her speed made it impossible to stop.

Allentown police officer Craig Berger testified that he arrived to find the Infiniti pushed down the embankment of an auto service center at the intersection. He also testified that he didn’t see any tire markings on the road in the area of the wreck.

Berger interviewed Eiseman at St. Luke’s University Hospital, where Eiseman allegedly said she was traveling from the Sellersville area after having an argument over child custody issues. She allegedly told Berger she had no idea where she was and didn’t see the traffic light.

Eiseman said the car she struck came out of nowhere, Berger testified.

McDonald later testified that the video shows Watkins-Rivera’s car was the third car through the intersection.

A pair of witnesses also testified that Eiseman had been speeding and driving erratically just before the wreck.

The first witness said a car sped past him and cut him off as he was driving down South Fourth Street toward Emaus Avenue just before the crash. He couldn’t identify the driver, but said the Fiesta at the scene of the wreck was the car that passed him.

A second witness said she was stopped on South Fourth Street at a red light at Brookdale Street in front of the KFC, when a car swerved around her into the other lane and sped through the red light. She testified she saw the car moments later at the crash scene.

Defense attorney William Moore asked the judge to dismiss six charges of reckless endangerment, arguing the prosecution hadn’t made its case to sustain the charges. While the witnesses testified they may have been startled, Eiseman didn’t hit their vehicles, he said. The second witness was at a standstill and watched as Eiseman drove by, Moore said.

The fact that other drivers didn’t react doesn’t mean Eiseman wasn’t driving recklessly, Assistant District Attorney Vitaliano Bernardino said. She was driving an estimated 85 mph moments before the crash, and anyone along her route or at the intersection was in danger, he said.

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