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Truck driver charged in local women’s deaths

By LINDSAY RENNER

Staff Writer

A Hughesville woman and her daughter were killed in a collision with a tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in Pennsylvania on Saturday.

According to reports from the Washington County, Pa., coroner’s office, Karen Babka, 57, and her daughter, Kaitlin Babka, 21, were traveling eastbound in South Strabane, Pa., around 11:30 a.m. when a truck traveling west crossed the median, striking the Babkas’ car and sending it through a guardrail and down a hill, killing both women. Four others also were injured in the accident, according to a report from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

On Tuesday morning in the Babkas’ neighborhood, no one answered the door at the family’s home. Neighbor Brian Flannery remembered Karen and Kaitlin Babka as having mostly kept to themselves.

“I only spoke to the father, David, a couple of times. I know he worked as a coal miner in West Virginia, so there would be weeks of time where it was just [Karen and Kaitlin] at home,” Flannery said.

Kaitlin Babka worked at the Wawa in Charlotte Hall. Kaitlin Babka’s manager there, Valerie Dearstine, said Kaitlin had worked there for the past two years, and Dearstine remembers her fondly.

“Kaitlin was extremely bright, entertaining and fun ... she was the life of the party,” Dearstine said. “She was a very hard worker who would do absolutely anything for anyone.”

A close family friend for the past four years, Laura Thomas of Waldorf, said Kaitlin was the godmother to her three children, and both mother and daughter were exceptional people.

“Karen was a woman of God,” Thomas said. “She loved God and her family deeply. She was humble, and she was always happy. She was also very reserved. What you saw with Karen was what you got. She had a heart of gold.”

At the time of her death, Karen Babka was employed at Abbey Manor Assisted Living in La Plata, a branch of the CCNRC Family of Care. Attempts to contact her employer were unsuccessful.

Arrangements for Karen and Kaitlin Babka are being handled by Wilson Funeral Homes in Bridgeport, Ohio. Kaitlin’s obituary on the funeral home’s website said she was a student at the College of Southern Maryland’s La Plata campus, and both she and her mother were members of Real Life Wesleyan Church in Mechanicsville.

The Rev. Todd Crofford of Real Life will officiate at the services next Monday, he said Tuesday.

“They were wonderful people,” Crofford said of Kaitlin and Karen Babka. “They had such sweet dispositions. Kaitlin, especially, had a smile that just lit up our room. She was well-connected with tons of friends in the area who are mourning her, obviously. They were special people.”

Crofford said the two had attended Real Life for about six months. He said friends and fellow church members are trying to put together a local memorial service for the two, but details were not available Tuesday afternoon.

The driver of the truck, Yevgeniy Bugreyev, 44, of West Sacramento, Calif., has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, according to online Pennsylvania court records.

Bugreyev is being held in the Washington County jail on $1 million bond, according to the online records.

Staff writer Joel Davis contributed to this report.

lrenner@somdnews.com