Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
For more information about Jo, check out her Linked-in profile, as well as her Facebook fan page, Instagram and Google+
Monday, October 20, 2014
Cops: Finding car in deadly Bensalem crash is a top priority
Posted: Friday, October 17, 2014
Drivers can expect delays along I-95 near the Bensalem border Friday as Pennsylvania State Police continue their search for the driver of the so-called “phantom” car they believe is responsible for the accident that killed a 44-year-old New Jersey mother of three Monday.
Lane restrictions will be in place in the area of Woodhaven Road starting at 10 a.m., police said Thursday. Traffic will be slowed and temporarily stopped in some cases, as the search for information about the mysterious black sedan continues.
Trevose barracks station commander Sgt. Michael Tinneny called the accident investigation a top priority.
Paul and Lisa DiMaio
Lisa DiMaio, of Turnersville, Gloucester County, was talking to her husband, Paul, on speakerphone as she drove back home around 3:45 p.m. after dropping off her daughter and 1-year-old granddaughter at their Bensalem home, her brother-in-law Sean Stevens said.
DiMaio told her husband that she had encountered an apparently hostile driver minutes earlier when she tried to merge onto I-95 from the Street Road on-ramp in Bensalem, Stevens said. She claimed that the driver swerved toward her on purpose, Stevens said.
Before DiMaio reached the next on-ramp to Woodhaven Road — witnesses claim another car also traveling south on I-95 suddenly changed lanes, merging into the left lane where DiMaio was driving her 2013 Jeep Liberty. The second car pulled in front of her, then slammed on its brakes, forcing the Jeep to suddenly decelerate presumably to avoid a collision, state police said.
DiMaio lost control of her vehicle and swerved onto the shoulder before hitting the end of a guardrail. After the initial impact, the Jeep went airborne and rolled over in mid-air, police said. It rolled over four to five times before stopping between the guardrails on a grass median.
Accident scene on I-95
No other cars were involved, police said. After the car cut off the Jeep, it continued south on I-95, witnesses said.
While the accident happened near the start of evening rush hour, so far, only a handful of witnesses have come forward, Tinneny said. They have been able to provide only a generic description of the car the cut off DiMaio’s Jeep — a late 1990s or early 2000s black sedan.
The subsequent publicity about the accident has generated tips, but so far nothing has panned out.
“I know more people saw the interactions,” Tinneny added. “I would urge them to come forward with information.”
DiMaio’s Jeep sustained “catastrophic damage” to its roof and driver’s compartment, police said. DiMaio also suffered catastrophic head injuries and had to be extricated. DiMaio was taken to Aria Health’s Torresdale campus, where she later died.
The sudden death of DiMaio is a devastating blow to her family, who described her as a person who was always smiling, had a wicked sense of humor, a saucy personality, always on the go and couldn’t stand to see anyone upset.
The loss has hit her husband — a Rhode Island ex-cop turned defense attorney — particularly hard, Stevens said.
“She was his rock.”
DiMaio was also mother of three children, a daughter Deena, 20, and sons Paul, 14, and Dylan, who turns 12 later this month, Stevens said.
“She was the center of everything. She was the life of the party,” her sister Janice Taylor said.
“She was always taking care of everybody,” she said. “She was always making people feel better. Nothing was ever inconvenient. She could never help enough.”
Eight years ago, DiMaio offered — no, she insisted — on acting as a surrogate for her and Stevens, Taylor said. DiMaio went through the necessary doctor appointments and IVF treatments, which required her to commute from Rhode Island, where she lived at the time, to Philadelphia where Taylor and Stevens live.
When the treatments didn’t work, DiMaio was devastated, Taylor said.
“She cried harder than I did,” her sister said.
Taylor said she last spoke to her sister about an hour before she was killed. She remembers DiMaio telling her she wanted to get on the road hoping to beat the rush hour traffic.
DiMaio, her husband, kids and granddaughter had just gotten home from a weekend trip to Hershey Park on Sunday. Almost immediately, DiMaio posted new family photos on her Facebook page including of them all on the Chocolate World tour, Taylor said.
On Monday — her day off from her job as an IRS tax examiner — she drove up to Northeast Philadelphia to check on her father and bring him lunch, Taylor said. She also brought her dad his granddaughter and great-granddaughter for a visit.
As the family prepares for DiMaio’s funeral on Tuesday, Stevens says he can’t imagine the driver who allegedly cut off his sister-in-law didn’t know what happened.