A firefighter died and two colleagues, plus a Pennsylvania state trooper, were hurt when an out of control, possibly drunk, driver struck them as they were responding to another DUI crash on Interstate 76 in Montgomery County Saturday morning.
The first responders were out of their vehicles, with two fire trucks blocking the right lane and shoulder, as they investigated a two-car crash on the westbound lanes of the interstate in Lower Merion shortly after 3 a.m., a state trooper at the scene told NBC10.
The first crash was not serious, but as one of the trucks from the Belmont Hills Fire Department started to pull away, a woman driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee on the right shoulder rounded one of the trucks and plowed into the first responders, the state trooper said.
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The Lower Merion Township Fire Department confirmed one of the responding firefighters died of his injuries after going into cardiac arrest. The other two firefighters were airlifted to a hospital and underwent surgery.
The state trooper was taken to a hospital in an ambulance but was expected to survive.
Lower Merion Chief Fire Officer Chas McGarvey identified the fallen firefighter as 49-year-old Thomas Royds. Royds, who had been a firefighter in multiple area departments since 1988, left behind three college-age children, McGarvey said.
“I used to work at this fire house years ago. I knew Tommy’s family. His dad was a fireman, and his grandfather was a fireman when they first started this fire company,” said Bill Coleman, a former Belmont Hills firefighter.
Royd’s death was another gut punch to area firefighters, who just a few weeks ago had to witness another one of their own be laid to rest after 35-year-old Sean W. DeMuynck, a volunteer working his last shift before moving back to his native Canada, died while responding to a fire on July 4th in Wynnewood.
“We know it’s dangerous and, God, you never think something like this is going to happen. We got it twice – twice in less than three weeks,” McGarvey said.
Jacquelyn Walker, of Pemberton, New Jersey, was charged with homicide by vehicle and related charges in Royds' death.
McGarvey said Royds came from a family of firefighters and loved the profession. “He’s just a fun guy to be around, he’d do anything you asked him. We’re going to miss him,” McGarvey said.
McGarvey also had a pointed message to drivers.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’re up there where we’re at a scene and people are just flying by and not paying attention, and I’m just begging people to slow down,” he said.
“This didn’t have to happen. It didn’t have to happen,” he added.