Fatal car accidents are always tragic events, but they’re especially difficult for families to handle when they occur just before the holidays. Instead of celebrating, the family and friends of one Pennsylvania woman have been forced to make plans to put her to rest after she was killed in a chain-reaction crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The woman was traveling last Friday from her home in Whitehall Township to Scranton, where she planned to spend the holidays with her boyfriend. On her way there, an accident involving a semitrailer created a traffic jam on the northeast extension of the turnpike near the Lehigh Tunnel. As the woman waited in traffic with hundreds of other motorists, a car approaching the traffic jam rear-ended the woman’s vehicle, setting off a chain reaction that caused the woman’s car and several others to catch fire.

Other motorists managed to get out of their cars and many tried to assist the woman, but they were unable to rescue her in time. She was pronounced dead at the scene about 90 minutes later. Police haven’t identified the driver who ran into her car, nor have they announced whether they will file charges against that person.

The woman’s family heard about the crash and tried to reach her on her cellphone; they grew increasingly worried after they got no answer and she failed to arrive in Scranton. It was a nightmare come true when they finally received word of her death.

Amid their grief, the woman’s loved ones must now focus not on celebrating, but on funeral and burial arrangements. As police determine fault in the accident, the family may want to look into filing a civil lawsuit against the driver. A wrongful death award or settlement could compensate the woman’s family not only for the costs of putting her to rest, but for their tremendous pain and suffering.

Source: The Morning Call, “Police identify woman killed in turnpike crash,” Kevin Amerman, Dec. 22, 2012