Trooper Brendan Sisca, a 29-year-old volunteer firefighter, was expecting his firstborn in July, a girl. He and his wife had already begun soliciting the necessities via an online baby registry — a monitor, a pack-and-go play place, and, of course, lots of diapers.
Trooper Martin Mack, 33, pulled double duty as a state police officer and a “dance dad” to his two young girls, .
But the lives of Sisca, Mack, and Reyes Rivera Oliveras would instead be cut short after their paths intersected with tragedy on Interstate 95 during the early morning hours of March 21.
Oliveras, 28, an electrician whose family believed was at Philadelphia International Airport before drivers who saw him walking along the six-lane highway alerted troopers.
Then there was Jayana Webb, 21, a track star-turned-hair stylist, barreling toward them in a silver Chevy Captiva.
At 12:47 a.m., Webb wrote on Twitter that she had been stopped “doing 110 in a 50″ mile-per-hour zone. While state police have neither confirmed nor denied the stop, multiple news outlets reported that Mack and Sisca stopped the woman for speeding on the interstate that night.
Around the time of the tweet, state police said the troopers were abruptly redirected to assist a man apparently attempting to cross the highway near Lincoln Financial Field. The troopers bolted south, and found Oliveras.
Webb, who prosecutors said admitted to drinking Hennessy cognac that night, proceeded south on I-95 and crashed into the three men at such a speed that the impact ripped the doors off their stopped state police SUV and sent the troopers flying over a highway divider.
All three men were pronounced dead shortly afterward. Webb and a passenger survived, and, according to police audio recordings, attempted to walk away but were escorted back to the scene.
The ensuing investigation shut down I-95 for nearly eight hours, as investigators attempted to piece together what happened. But days later, why Oliveras was on I-95 at 1 a.m. Monday, and how Webb came to be speeding toward him and the troopers, remain largely a mystery.
Webb now faces three counts of third-degree murder and potentially decades in prison. Her friends are reckoning with how a popular and promising young entrepreneur ended up in jail without bail over the deaths of three men.
Others are eager to see justice.
A booze-fueled crash
By the time Webb’s mugshot hit national news, she had already shown indications of reckless driving. Tweets from before the crash quickly emerged in which she bragged about drinking and driving. One January post read: “If you ask me, I’m the best drunk driver ever.”
Some in her social circle, meanwhile, were in shock. How could Webb — a track-and-field star with no past DUIs and a hair-braiding business — be responsible for the deaths of three people?
Some said Webb deserves what’s coming. Others, sometimes posting under the hashtag “#TeamJay,” said Webb made a terrible error, egged on by a pervasive culture of casual drunk driving.
“What she did was not right,” said a friend, who spoke to the The Inquirer on condition of anonymity due to the high-profile nature of the case. “But at the same time we’re all human and we all make mistakes.”
Others online had little sympathy: “Maybe if she just crashed and no one was involved. But she didn’t hurt just one person, she killed three.”
“I hope she gets life,” wrote another commenter. “Three people are dead because she REGULARLY drove drunk.”
At Norristown High School, where she graduated in 2018, Webb was popular, ran track, and wrote for the student newspaper. Webb’s friend of more than a decade said that even when her track team was losing, Webb “ran her behind off” to set records.
But over the past few years, social media accounts associated with Webb began to paint a portrait of heavy partying and reckless driving.
Around 4 a.m. Sunday, just a day before the crash, a tweet from one of Webb’s Twitter handles indicated she was “tearing up Kelly Drive” — a riverfront park lane plagued by speeding drivers.
Less than 24 hours later, she tweeted again about being pulled over for speeding. The timestamp read 12:47 a.m., just minutes before she crashed into the troopers further down I-95. The account, now deleted, posted again minutes later, mentioning a friend in the car with her.
That was around the same time the two troopers stopped responding to radio calls. Philadelphia Police officers arrived soon after 1 a.m. to a harrowing scene.
According to police dispatch audio, a civilian was administering CPR to the troopers whose bodies had flown into the northbound highway lanes. Oliveras lay on the ground. The arriving officer radioed to dispatchers in a panicked tone: “We have two troopers down and a civilian.” .
Meanwhile, Webb’s car sat in the shoulder, its front end pounded by the impact. Witnesses informed the officer that the driver of the crashed vehicle had taken off on foot, but police quickly picked up Webb, according to dispatch audio.
Philly police and PennDot workers cordoned off the highway from Girard Point Bridge to Center City, as the investigation carried on through the morning. Troopers and police officers hugged one another on the scene, before escorting the bodies of Sisca, Mack, and Oliveras to the Medical Examiner’s Office in a police motorcade.
“For all three,” Gov. Tom Wolf said at a press conference hours later, “it’s a reminder of how precious and fragile life really is.”
On Tuesday, Webb was arrested using the slain troopers’ handcuffs. Meanwhile, authorities still had not released the name of the man who had been walking on the highway.
His family, they said, had been hard to reach.
From Puerto Rico to Massachusetts to I-95
A life as a young journeyman electrician took Reyes Rivera Oliveras from a mountain town in Puerto Rico to New England and, in his final years, Pennsylvania.
Oliveras, 28, was born in Ciales, a town of about 17,000 in the interior of the island known for coffee cultivation. Like thousands of others from his region, Oliveras decamped to the mainland United States in search of work.
“He was always happy. He didn’t have any problems with anyone. He always had a smile on his face, and that’s how we want to remember him,” Aida Sierra, Oliveras’ sister, told NBC10.
He moved to New England, working as an electrician while living in Chelsea, Mass., near Boston. He worked on construction projects there and in Connecticut, where his mother lived at the time.
On social media accounts, Oliveras rooted fervently for the Boston Red Sox, quoted passages from the Bible, and shared feel-good viral videos. Yajaira Perez, whose brother dated Oliveras for several years, remembered him as kind.
“He was a good guy,” she told The Inquirer. “He cared about people.”
In one photo on Facebook, Oliveras praised his father for “collecting the message” from God. “I love you, my old man,” he wrote in Spanish.
In 2019, a social media account associated with Oliveras indicated that he was studying electrical engineering at a university in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Court records from July 2020 next place Oliveras in Allentown.
Records also show several of Oliveras’ relatives had settled in central Pennsylvania, and Perez, who now lives in Alabama, says his mother had relocated from Hartford, Conn., to Allentown. The last time she saw Oliveras, he was back in Puerto Rico, in 2020.
How he wound up near the Broad Street exit of I-95 nearly two years later is unclear, and subject to conflicting accounts.
Perez says she heard Oliveras had flown into Philadelphia that night from Boston, but did not have a ride. Aida Sierra told NBC10 that she had helped her brother get to the airport in Philadelphia so he could fly to Puerto Rico on Sunday night. His mother, father, and several siblings either could not be reached or declined to speak to The Inquirer.
Although both accounts place Oliveras at the airport, neither fully explains why he would brave a miles-long walk along one of the nation’s most heavily traveled expressways.
“I don’t know why he did that,” Perez said. “He knows that was very dangerous.”
» READ MORE: Fatal I-95 accident in Philadelphia: What we know
Families grieve the unimaginable
The families of the troopers have not spoken to the media. But an obituary for Mack detailed the life of a doting father, loving husband, and someone dedicated to carrying on his family’s legacy of service.
Mack was born in Philadelphia. His father was in the U.S. Marine Corps and like many military families, Mack’s childhood was nomadic with constant moves. When his father retired, Mack settled in the Philadelphia suburbs.
After graduating from Monsignor Bonner High School and attending Albright College, Mack became a sergeant in the National Guard. He joined the Pennsylvania State Police Academy in 2014 and soon became a trooper at Philadelphia’s Troop K.
Mack was an avid rugby player and served as an assistant coach for Bristol’s Truman High School lacrosse team.
Brendan Sisca was a more recent trooper academy graduate, completing his training in August.
He had volunteered in the Trappe Fire Company, a borough of 3,600 in northern Montgomery County, since his teen years, and eventually became fire chief. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Craig Sisca, who volunteered with the same department while serving as a deputy sheriff for the county. His wife and father-in-law volunteered there, too.
“He was young and energetic and really wanted to affect change,” said Chris Leder, 46, a former member of the fire company. “He put 150% into everything he did. His dedication and motivation was contagious.”
In the days after the crash, the tiny fire station was draped in black funerary cloth in Sisca’s honor.
A public viewing for Mack will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 30 at Wade Funeral Home in Bristol, said Mark Wade, director of the funeral home. A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. March 31 at St. Michael the Archangel Church, in Levittown.
Public viewings for Sisca will be held from noon to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 1 at the Boyd-Horrox-Givnish Funeral Home in Norristown. His funeral will be held at Perkiomen Valley High School at noon April 2.