The inconsistancy on this accident started from day one and continue.

BRODHEADSVILLE – Nearly three months after a head-on car crash killed a state senator who represented part of Berks County, the driver of the other vehicle expects to face criminal charges – and a wrongful death claim by the lawmaker’s estate and his widow.

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The Associated Press
Thomas Senavitis, 45, Towamensing, Carbon County, is recovering from injuries suffered when his pickup truck collided with a car driven by state Sen. James J. Rhoades, who was fatally injured.

Sen. James J. Rhoades, 66, and his wife, Mary, were headed to an event in the Poconos on Oct. 17 when the car he was driving collided with a pickup truck driven by Thomas Senavitis, 45.

The seven-term Republican, who lived in Schuylkill County, died the next day.

Rhoades represented the 29th District, which includes parts of Berks, Schuylkill, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe and Northampton counties.

Attorney Christopher Hobbs, the late senator’s son-in-law, has since written to Senavitis that “a claim for personal injury and wrongful death is being made against you by Mary Edith Rhoades and the estate of James J. Rhoades.” Senavitis’ wife, Dolores, received an identical letter. Hobbs urged the couple to give the letters to their insurance carrier.

Beyond Hobbs’ correspondence, no lawsuit has been filed against Senavitis. Hobbs declined to comment.

Senavitis, an auto mechanic, denied responsibility for the crash, but said he expects to face charges anyway, given Rhoades’ stature.

“I’m just a nobody,” Senavitis said in an interview at his Towamensing home in rural Carbon County, where he is recuperating from a shattered right leg and other injuries. “I’ll be guilty no matter what.”

The crash occurred about 6:30 p.m. on Route 209 near Brodheadsville, Monroe County.

State police have said Rhoades was traveling north and that his car collided with Senavitis’ truck heading the other way.

Rhoades’ car also struck a minivan that had pulled onto the northbound shoulder.

Senavitis said he was driving home from the bank when he suddenly saw the car in front of him in his lane.

“I couldn’t even turn the steering wheel,” he said. “I’ve turned it over and over and over. There’s no humanly possible way I could avoid that crash.”

The collision occurred on a bridge with narrow shoulders. Senavitis said he believes Rhoades either clipped the minivan and then went into his lane, or veered into his lane to avoid hitting the minivan.

Although he has several dings on his driving record, including citations for careless driving and failing to drive at safe speed, Senavitis said he has the facts on his side.

“I’ll go to my grave knowing what happened,” he said. “I did not do anything wrong.”

State police have concluded their investigation and turned the results over to Monroe County District Attorney David Christine, who will decide if charges are warranted. He was on vacation and did not return phone messages Thursday or Friday.

Rhoades’ high public profile may mean that “people’s thirst for information may be greater,” Murtin said. “But it’s no different than what the Pennsylvania State Police do normally.”

A trooper initially wrote in a news release about the crash that Senavitis was cited for leaving his lane, but Murtin said no citation was filed.

Rhoades was the longtime chairman of the Senate Education Committee. The former school principal and football coach helped craft every major education initiative in recent history, including the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program.

He won re-election posthumously. A special election will be held March 3 to determine his successor.

“I hate the fact it ever happened,” Senavitis said. “I have nothing against the man. I thought he did his job and did it well.”


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