A Kensington woman who was teaching her teenage daughter to drive when their SUV struck and killed two men in June won't be charged with the deaths, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Municipal Court Judge Karen Yvette Simmons dropped charges of homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter against Stephanie Hernandez, 32, who had been charged in July. The fatal accident in the Aramingo Village shopping center parking lot in Port Richmond occurred when Hernandez allowed her 15-year-old daughter to drive her vehicle.
Her daughter, whose name is being withheld because she is a juvenile, is charged in Family Court with homicide by vehicle and related offenses. The status of those charges was unclear Tuesday.
Hernandez, who appeared before Simmons, still faces a charge of permitting an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle, for which a hearing is scheduled Jan. 8.
Testifying in court Tuesday, Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick Farrell gave this account, based on his interview with Hernandez on the night of the accident, June 4:
Hernandez sat in the passenger seat of her black 2008 Ford Explorer, coaching her daughter through the short ride from their home in the 3500 block of Emerald Street to the shopping center. In the backseat were the driver's 12-year-old sister and her sister's friend.
Her oldest child wasn't yet eligible for a learner's permit, but Hernandez wanted the girl to get an early start, about 20 weeks shy of her 16th birthday.
Around 9 p.m., the teen driver pulled into the retail strip's parking lot along the bustling commercial corridor at Aramingo and Castor Avenues, and slowly headed for an open spot outside a Dollar Tree store.
Four men sitting on milk crates in front of the store began waving her closer to the curb.
She eased off the left pedal, and her mother shouted, "Keep your foot on the brake!"
Instead, she stomped on the gas.
The SUV lunged forward and jumped the curb, striking David Abshire and Thomas Papineau, both 55. Both men died that night.