New Castle News

November 27, 2012

Neighbors reflect on horrific death of ‘sweet child’

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Octavius Stone is remembered as a “sweet child who played fair, was extremely polite and raised by good people.”

The 7-year-old Winslow Avenue boy enjoyed playing with neighbor Barbara Brown’s 9-year-old grandson, Emil Osborn Velez, when he visited from Volant.

“Every time little Octavius saw certain cars, he knew my grandson ... Ozzy was there and he’d come over to play,” Brown said. “I called them my two little Os.”

The boys were playing with their green soldiers at 2:15 p.m. Sunday on the concrete steps in front of Brown’s house at 941 Winslow Ave. when a yellow pickup truck roared through her yard, striking both children.

Octavius died of blunt force trauma to the chest, according to Lawrence County’s deputy coroner Richard Johnson. He pronounced the boy dead at 2:50 p.m. at Jameson Hospital, ruling the death an accident.

New Castle police said the truck was driven by Virgil Eldon Coonfare, 66, of 920 Beckford St.

Coonfare was charged with homicide by vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance, aggravated assault by vehicle and driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

He is in the Lawrence County jail, being held without bond. His preliminary hearing is set for Dec. 5.

City police reported that state police accident reconstruction troopers had determined Coonfare was traveling northwest on Stanton Avenue, attempted to turn onto Winslow Avenue but drove onto the sidewalk. Officers said he went between a utility pole and large rock, up an embankment and through the front yards of 941 and 939 Winslow Avenue. He struck the children before returning to Winslow Avenue and coming to rest a few houses down the street at 928 Winslow.

“I didn’t see what happened,” Brown said Monday morning. “I heard wood breaking when the truck hit the railing I had on my steps.”

Brown was entertaining three grandchildren Sunday afternoon — Ozzy, Connor Brown, 11, and Fiona Hunt, who turned a year old that day.

“We were planning a little party for Fiona,” Brown said. “Her mother just left to go to the store to get pop and things for the party. I told Connor to watch Fiona in the living room while I put on the spaghetti and meatballs.”

Within minutes of entering her kitchen, Brown said, she heard the wood being smashed. At first, she said, she thought the boys were breaking something on the porch. Then she looked out.

After the crash, “everyone rushed outside.”

She estimated 20 neighbors were in the street — at least half of them calling 911 on cell phones.

“It’s been a nightmare.”

Brown said Ozzy was on his back on the sidewalk and Octavius was curled up a fetal position on the steps.

“He raised his head as I approached.”

The truck, which had climbed the embankment of her front yard, also cut gouges in the yard and hit a lamp post.

“I can’t understand how that truck climbed up the hill,” she said.

Brown said she visited her grandson Sunday night in Pittsburgh, where he had been flown to Children’s Hospital.

“He told me that he had seen the truck coming, that he tried to get Octavius out of the way, but they weren’t able to move fast enough.”

Although he was admitted in critical condition, she said, “he is expected to make a full recovery.” She anticipated he would be released Monday.

Brown noted he had abrasions from his neck to his groin and cuts to both legs and his mother said he had nightmares all night.

“They X-rayed every inch of his body and said they found no broken bones,” she said.

Monday morning, Brown said, cars were still going up and down her street.

“It’s been like a circus. People are curious to see what happened.”