Pa. Prosecutor Among Victims of Fiery Highway Crash

One of the three people killed in a fiery interstate crash in eastern Pennsylvania was a longtime state and county prosecutor.

Authorities say 52-year-old Robert Rosner was a deputy attorney general who worked at the state attorney general's office in Allentown.

He previously worked as a Lehigh County deputy district attorney and a special assistant U.S. attorney. Before going to law school, he was a police officer in Warwick Township, Bucks County.
Northampton County prosecutor Terry Houck said Rosner was liked and respected by everyone - defense attorneys, prosecutors and police.

Edward Dearden, 57, and Theresa Dearden, 54, of York also were killed in the crash Monday on Interstate 78 in Greenwich Township.

On Monday around 1 p.m., police say 56-year-old Vincente Espinvera of Belleville, N.J. was driving a tractor-trailer eastbound in the left lane of I-78 at mile-marker 41.5.

As he was driving, investigators say Espinvera tried to pass a slow-moving box truck in the right lane but didn’t notice the vehicle in front of him. Police say his big rig struck the vehicle driven by Rosner. 

The impact caused Rosner’s car to crash into other vehicles, creating a chain reaction. As Rosner’s vehicle continued to crash into others, it suddenly burst into flames.

The fire spread to two other vehicles along the center median. Police say Edward Dearden was driving one of those vehicles while Theresa Dearden was his passenger. The two were unable to escape and died in the fire.

Investigators say the driver of the other vehicle that caught fire managed to escape with minor injuries before his vehicle was fully engulfed in flames.

Police say Espinvera tried to back his truck away from the fire, not realizing that half of Rosner’s vehicle was stuck underneath. According to investigators, Espinvera dragged Rosner’s burning vehicle with him as he backed up approximately 70 feet. Police say this caused the fire to spread from Rosner’s vehicle to Espinvera’s truck.

Espinvera managed to escape the truck before it became fully engulfed.

Rosner died from the injuries he suffered during the accident. Police say two other people were involved in the crash though they were not seriously hurt.

The highway near the accident scene was shut down for several hours before it finally reopened Monday night.

Drivers in the area say they often don't feel safe when traveling on the 40-year-old highway. PennDOT officials say I-78 is especially dangerous because it has little or no shoulders and is too narrow for tractor trailers.

"The fatality rate is about 40% higher than the statewide average," said Ron Young of PennDOT Lehigh Valley. "The overall crash rate is about 71% higher."

PennDOT officials say adding a lane for slower trucks and widening the shoulders on I-78 from Exit 35 East to the Lehigh County line is on their agenda. However, they also say that won't happen until at least another year.

"We want to do what's right and do the project correctly," Young said. "To do that it takes time." 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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