WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. (KDKA) — A local fire chief is remembering the fatal crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike one year later.
The hour, minute and date of a call for service still haunts Mt. Pleasant Fire Chief Jerry Lucia — 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2020.
“They never leave my mind. They’re there all the time,” he said.
Milepost 85.5 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Mt. Pleasant is where a tour bus heading westbound out of New York lost control, collecting multiple tractor-trailers. When sounds of the crashing metal and broken glass stopped, five people were dead and 60 were injured.
Lucia realized he needed help and needed it fast.
“I reached out to all the ambulance services as far as Somerset to come down,” he said.
As incident commander, Lucia says he tried to keep a clear head and demanded the same from his firefighters.
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“Be calm, do what you have to do. What you’re trained to do, do it. My boys went right into action,” Lucia said.
For Lucia, the loss of life was tragic, but it was also the least of his concerns. Sixty people were injured, all Chinese nationals who did not speak English.
“When the medics got on scene, they did have one person who understood their language with who they could communicate with,” Lucia said.
Preliminary findings in the crash investigation found that the driver of the Z&D Tour Inc. bus lost control on a steep turn. The driver was one of the five people who died, but it’s the living victims and the look in their eyes that Lucia won’t soon forget.
“It made you cry. They were frightened, absolutely frightened,” he said.