The Times West Virginian

Headline News

July 15, 2014

Struck by rock thrown from overpass, mom fights for life

DANVILLE, Pa. — A 52-year-old Uniontown, Ohio, mother of four fought for her life in a hospital Monday as a result of a rock thrown from a highway overpass that shattered the windshield of the family car during a trip to New York City.

Authorities have charged four teenagers with tossing the rock from a 25-foot overpass on Interstate 80 in east-central Pennsylvania near Williamsport around midnight Thursday.

Sharon Budd was struck in the face in the front passenger’s seat. Her daughter, Kaylee, 19, who was driving, and her husband, Randy, 53, in the back seat, were not injured. The family was headed for New York for a week’s vacation. The Budds’ three adult sons — Luke 29, James, 24, and Joey, 22 — were at home in Ohio.

Mrs. Budd was taken to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. Doctors there told the family her face was severely fractured and that her only hope for survival was a risky medical procedure that involved removing the front part of her skull to allow the brain to swell unrestricted.

A close family friend, Lindsay Bannister, 20, told the Sunbury Daily Item that Mrs. Budd was in “very, very critical condition. For lack of a better way to phrase it, her face is completely smashed.”

Bannister said doctors had beckoned other family members to the hospital in the event she did not survive the operation on her skull.

“We hope everyone prays and thinks about this family,” said Bannister. “We don’t care about the kids who did this; we care about her. We want her to get better.”

Arrested shortly after the incident were brothers Brett and Dylan Lahr, 18 and 17, respectively, and two other minor teens whose names were withheld. Police said all were from New Columbia, Pa., near the scene of the tragedy. State Police Sgt. Frederick Dyroff said authorities would decide in the next few days whether to charge the juveniles in adult court.

“It’s a heinous crime,” said Dyroff. “What they did is beyond absurd and ridiculous. They should be charged to fullest extent of the law.”

State Police investigators said the teenagers stopped their Mitsubishi Eclipse on the overpass on Gray Hill Road in White Deer Township around 11:45 p.m. Thursday, got out and started throwing rocks at passing vehicles. They said after a rock struck the victim’s car, they jumped back into their Eclipse and drove to the Lahr brothers home, where they switched to a gold Honda Accord and drove back by the scene a couple of times to see what had happened.

An officer at the scene was suspicious of the Honda, took down its license plate number and traced the car registration to a member of the Lahr family. A state police spokesman said that during questioning by troopers the Lahr brothers and the other two teens acknowledged they had thrown rocks from the overpass.

A preliminary court appearance for the teens has been scheduled for Thursday. They face several charges, including aggravated criminal assault and recklessly endangering another person.

Bannister said she and her parents have been friends of the victim’s family for two decades. She described Mrs. Budd as the “strongest woman I know.” She said Mrs. Budd is a teacher in Ohio and a breast cancer survivor as well as the mother of four children.

“She works with troubled teenagers much like the ones responsible for harming her,” said Bannister. “Despite how they challenge her, she puts her students’ needs first.”

Details for this story were provided by the Sunbury, Pa., Daily Item.

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