WILLIAMSPORT – It was the Fourth of July 2021, and the fireworks display had just ended. Russell Scott and his friend Christopher Welch were getting ready to cross the street back to Scott’s house on the 900 block of High Street.
The pair never made it home. First, Welch stumbled. Scott leaned down to pick up his friend and, before they knew it, a car plowed into them, driving over Welch’s body and throwing Scott on the hood, dragging the pair nearly a block down the street.
Welch was killed almost immediately, Scott said.
“I’m up through the night ’cause it’s so hard for me to sleep,” Scott said, adding that he thinks about the crash every day.
After he was struck, Scott spent a week in the hospital and months in physical therapy, unable to return to work until December.
Scott, who is in his late 30s, saw Welch, 22, as a younger brother, watching him grow up in Williamsport and eventually taking him into his home three months before Welch’s sudden death.
“He was one of those kids that would brighten your day up,” Scott said. “If you were bored, he was gonna make you smile.”
Details of the incident remain under contention, as some say that Welch and Scott were in the roadway when they were hit, but Scott remains adamant that he had pulled his friend out of the road and onto the grassy berm before the pair were struck.
Driving the car was a 17-year-old girl, according to city police, who have not released her identity. According to Scott, the police also said she had marijuana in her blood results; however when asked the police were unable to confirm this with On the PULSE. No charges have been filed for a DUI.
The investigation into the fatal crash continues, according to Williamsport Bureau of Police Chief Justin Snyder, adding he is unable to comment on the details of the case.
Delays in an outcome have drawn criticism from both Scott and the Welch family.
“If I would have hit them and killed somebody, I would have been in jail,” Scott said. “I just wish he was here, ’cause he had his whole life ahead of him.”
Snyder told On the PULSE there are a variety of reasons why investigations may take longer than expected.
“One thing we are fighting is personnel,” Snyder said. “We’re trying to provide a service to the city but … especially from a patrol perspective … it makes it hard for us to do it in a timely manner.”
Snyder added that the process for obtaining search warrants is much longer than most people think, especially as each officer is laden with many cases at once.
“It’s a tedious process with a lot of steps that people don’t see,” Snyder said.
For family and friends reeling from loss, these reasons often are hard to accept.
Scott acknowledges that since it was the Fourth of July, the pair had been celebrating at the neighbor’s home and had been drinking.
But he added that since they weren’t planning to drive that night, as they would instead take the short walk across the street to go home, he thought it would be okay to let loose.
Welch is remembered by his family and friends as an upbeat guy, always ready to brighten their day. Things were never boring when Welch was around.
“Chris was not only my brother but my best friend,” said Todd Welch. “We were together constantly riding scooters, hunting, fishing, etc. Now I don’t have my sidekick.”
Todd Welch received a call shortly after his own family had finished with their July Fourth festivities and was told that his brother had been struck by a car.
He and his girlfriend and two kids jumped into the car and began driving down High Street toward the hospital, but soon they hit traffic and saw emergency vehicles ahead of them.
“I was asking the neighbors there if it was Chris and they confirmed, so we met at the hospital with my immediate family to see him,” he said. “The doctor … pulled us in a room and told us that he had passed.”
Welch said he wants to see charges filed in the case.
“We will NOT settle for a plea deal. I personally would like no less than 15 years (in prison for) the driver,” Welch told On the PULSE through a Facebook message, adding the emphasis. “And, at a minimum, vehicular manslaughter for inattentive driving IF her drug test comes back negative. If it comes back positive, that’s a whole ‘nother ballpark.”
Scott and his family, including four children who were all present at the scene, continue to struggle with the trauma from that night. Scott said he is now in therapy with his 9-year-old son, who has recently started to show signs of latent psychological trauma.