Driver in fatal Kensington crash identified

Police car
PHOTO: Metro file

Police have identified the driver who was involved in a violent crash that left him and two bystanders dead early Tuesday morning in Kensington.

John Gillespie Jr., 32, who lived in Southwest Philadelphia, was behind the wheel of an speeding SUV that slammed into a Market-Frankford Line exit-only stairwell at around 2:45 a.m. at Kensington and Allegheny avenues.

Two pedestrians, a man and a woman, were struck and died at the scene. Authorities have not released their names or ages, with a police spokesperson saying investigators were still trying to identify the victims and notify their families as of late Wednesday afternoon.

A fourth person, a 53-year-old male pedestrian, was hospitalized with serious injuries but is expected to survive.

Deputy Police Commissioner Ben Naish told reporters the SUV’s speed was “incredibly excessive” and that the driver was operating in “such a reckless manner.”

“It’s too early to say whether there were any substances involved or anything like that behind the accident,” he said.

Gillespie was a “very family oriented man” who left behind a wife, a 15-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son, his cousin Nyasia Gillespie said.

In a written message to Metro, she explained that he had struggled with drugs but had recently turned his life around. He was preparing to start a new job on the day of the crash and was invested in making music.

“We have no idea if he was being chased, under the influence, lost control or something was wrong with the vehicle,” Nyasia Gillespie said. “But what we do know is that John would never intentionally hurt himself or other people.”

She said the family is devastated over Gillespie’s loss, as well as the deaths of the two pedestrians.

According to his Facebook page, Gillespie grew up in Kensington, graduated from Frankford High School and rapped under the moniker Kenzo K1dd.

Meanwhile, SEPTA did not find any structural damage to the Allegheny station after inspecting the stairwell, authority spokesperson Andrew Busch said.

A large crack that opened up in the building only affects the brick facade, he told Metro. SEPTA is working to replace the turnstiles, though there is no dollar value or timeline for the repair yet, Busch said.

For the time being, riders getting off on the eastbound side can cross a bridge at the elevated station and exit on the westbound section, where elevators remain operational.