Driver sentenced in motorcycle death, son injury

The 76-year-old driver of a car who struck and killed Slippery Rock Township firefighter Travis John Bintrim Sr. on his motorcycle and permanently maimed his now-wheelchair-bound son broke down in tears during her sentencing.

Gail Newtzie, who was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and court costs, said she will regret the accident for the rest of her life.

Newtzie, of Beckford Street, pleaded guilty in court March 26 to one count of careless driving causing death, and careless driving causing bodily injury. That came as a result of the June 17 Harlansburg Road collision that cost the 49-year-old Bintrim his life and sent his son, Brayden Bintrim, 14, a passenger, to Pittsburgh with life-threatening injuries. The young Bintrim endured multiple surgeries and a 59-day stay in UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and has had ongoing rehabilitation.

Lawrence County Common Pleas President Judge Dominick Motto sentenced Newtzie to pay fines of $500 each for each of the two counts and suspended her driver’s license for one year — six months for each count.

An involuntary manslaughter charge against her was dismissed as part of the plea agreement because the accident circumstances did not rise to that of criminal intent, Assistant District Attorney Luann Parkonen told the judge. She said in court the state trooper who investigated the accident scene was in agreement with that conclusion.

Bintrim’s family members, suffering the emotional blow of his death and the consequences the collision had on his son, attended Newtzie’s plea and sentencing hearing to tell the judge how the accident and loss permanently changed their lives.

Brayden, in the courtroom in his wheelchair, is permanently disabled, according to an impact statement his mother, Rebecca Bintrim, delivered in court.

She said at first, doctors thought there was a 90-percent chance they would have to amputate his leg, but they managed to save it.

“His father died while he was in the intensive care unit,” she told the court.

She said her grandchildren were at the scene and saw Travis lying there bleeding without his leg, and “what these kids saw, they can’t unsee,” Rebecca said.

“I feel angry and frustrated but I can’t harbor all of this hatred in my heart,” she continued. “Nothing will bring back Travis. I will never forget my kids waiting and agonizing to find out that their dad was gone.”

To Newtzie, she said, “You almost killed two people. You destroyed a family. You took a life and you severely injured a child, my child. No sentence will bring back Travis or make my son walk again. You have to live with what you’ve done, just as we have to. I hope you repent and God shows mercy on all of us.

Showing remorse is something you’ll have to take up with God.”

“She took the life of my dad. He was a son, a brother and a father and a grandfather,” Bintrim’s daughter, Taylor Wetzel commented after the hearing. “She was going 57 mph.”

The accident severed the elder Bintrim’s leg and he bled to death, his daughter said, “and my brother will suffer the rest of his life.”

Brayden’s family members detailed his injuries after the court proceeding. They included a punctured lung, a broken pelvis in three places, a shattered foot, a broken femur, severed leg muscles and a broken tibia and fibula — all compound fractures. He had a severed thumb that had to be reattached and a torn meniscus. He also suffered infections from his injuries and from the dirt that his wounds came into contact with from the grass.

He had been on a ventilator and life support in the intensive care unit in the early days after the accident. He still goes to rehabilitation two to three times a week.

The family expressed their gratitude to a trauma nurse at the scene named Pam Ward, who tended to Brayden and likely saved his life.

“I can never take back this day,” a tearful Newtzie said in court. “I will live with this for the rest of my life. I will never get rid of that guilt. All because of one moment when I have no idea what happened. I may not be in prison, but I will be in prison for the rest of my life. Never think that I’m not being punished.”

“It would be an understatement to say this was a terrible tragedy,” Motto said. He agreed the prosecution’s conclusion is correct that the accident didn’t rise to the level of criminality.

Police initially reported in a criminal complaint Newtzie was driving west in a Nissan Rogue on Harlansburg Road and veered into the oncoming lane of travel. Her vehicle struck Bintrim’s Harley-Davidson with Brayden riding on the back as both were thrown from it.

Travis Bintrim was transported to UPMC Jameson Hospital, where he died within an hour of the crash from injuries that included his amputated leg and a major abdominal laceration, police reported. Earlier reports were he was not wearing a helmet, but his son was. Brayden was flown to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Newtzie and her passenger, Catherine Jennings, 72, were treated for their injuries at UPMC Jameson Hospital.

Newtzie told police at the time that was on her way home from Harrisburg and she could have fallen asleep but was not sure, the report said.

A witness traveling in a car in front of Bintrim’s bike, told police he was driving east and saw Newtzie’s vehicle swerve into his lane.

He said he had to swerve out of her way then saw her hit the motorcycle in the rearview mirror of his Jeep, according to reports.

Travis Bintrim had been a member of the Slippery Rock Township Volunteer Fire Department for 31 years since he was 18 years old.