13 injured after car plows into fundraiser for 10 killed in house fire

Driver plows into small-town community fundraiser in Pennsylvania, killing one person and injuring 17 more – before ‘fleeing and murdering a second person with a hammer just minutes later’

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Two people are dead and at least 17 were injured in Pennsylvania after police say a man fatally plowed his car into a fundraiser event for the families of 10 people who died in a recent house fire, and then fled the scene and murdered a woman with a hammer.

One death and all of the injuries occurred in the crash at the fundraiser in Berwick, before the driver fled the scene and beat a woman to death in nearby Nescopeck, according to police.

The crash occurred at around 6:15pm on Saturday outside a restaurant called Intoxicology Department, which was hosting a day-long event to raise money for the families of those killed in a fire earlier this month. 

In a statement to DailyMail.com, Pennsylvania State Police said that the suspected driver, a male who is now in custody, fled the crash scene and, minutes later, murdered a woman in nearby Nescopeck.

Local photographer Tony Bendele reported that shortly after the mass-casualty incident in Berwick, police were called to the scene of a second car crash in neighboring Nescopeck, where a man was beating a woman with a hammer.

Police say they arrived on the scene and found the woman dead, and arrested the suspected killer. The vehicle in that incident matched the description of the one that had plowed through the crowd in Berwick moments earlier. 

However, at this time officials say that the suspect in Saturday’s fatal crash and murder is not a suspect in the fatal fire that killed 10 people on August 5, the cause of which remains under investigation. 

At least 13 people have been injured in Pennsylvania after a car plowed into a fundraiser event for the families of 10 people who died in a recent house fire

At least 13 people have been injured in Pennsylvania after a car plowed into a fundraiser event for the families of 10 people who died in a recent house fire

The crash occurred at around 6.30pm on Saturday at a restaurant in Berwick, which was hosting a day-long event to raise money for the families of those killed in the fire

The crash occurred at around 6.30pm on Saturday at a restaurant in Berwick, which was hosting a day-long event to raise money for the families of those killed in the fire

The fatal house fire (1) occurred on August 5. On Saturday, a car plowed into the fundraiser for the families (2) before police say the driver attacked and killed a woman minutes later (3). The suspect was arrested at the scene of the murder (4)

The fatal house fire (1) occurred on August 5. On Saturday, a car plowed into the fundraiser for the families (2) before police say the driver attacked and killed a woman minutes later (3). The suspect was arrested at the scene of the murder (4) 

Berwick’s borough government said in a statement: ‘There is no indication that the incident in Berwick tonight was related to the event being held at Intoxicology Department.’ 

‘After speaking with law enforcement at the scene, there is no ongoing threat to the public,’ the statement added. 

Police said that the suspect, whom they declined to name, is being held at the state trooper barracks at Shickshinny awaiting criminal charges.

Although they are in separate counties, Berwick and Nescopeck are twin hamlets connected by a bridge across the dividing Susquehanna River. 

The fatal fire on August 5, the Saturday crash at the fundraiser benefit, and the subsequent hammer murder all took place within a radius of less than a mile. 

At least 13 people hurt in the Berwick crash were being triaged for medical care at nearby Geisinger Medical Center, WNEP-TV reported.  

The areas around Center Street in Berwick were shut down after the crash, PA Homepage reported. 

In a Facebook post, Intoxicology Department, the restaurant where Saturday’s fundraiser was held, said they will close their doors until further notice.

‘Today was an absolute tragedy. We will be closed until further notice. Please respect our privacy while we grieve and try to process the events that occurred. Thank you.’

Saturday’s victims were gathered at Intoxicology Department to raise money the families of those killed in the deadly fire in nearby Nescopeck on August 5.

It’s unclear what started the blaze in the home where 14 people lived, but Pennsylvania State Police said they had launched a ‘complex criminal investigation’. 

State police said seven adults ranging from late teens to age 79 were killed along with children aged five, six and seven. 

Police released little information in their preliminary statement on the twisted events

Police released little information in their preliminary statement on the twisted events

It's unclear what started the deadly blaze in the home where 14 people lived, but Pennsylvania State Police said they had launched a 'complex criminal investigation'

It’s unclear what started the deadly blaze in the home where 14 people lived, but Pennsylvania State Police said they had launched a ‘complex criminal investigation’ 

Firefighters set up lights in front of a fatal house fire at 733 First Street in Nescopeck, Pa, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. The fire in Nescopeck was reported around 2:30am

Firefighters set up lights in front of a fatal house fire at 733 First Street in Nescopeck, Pa, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. The fire in Nescopeck was reported around 2:30am

All 10 died of smoke inhalation, according to the Luzerne County coroner’s office. 

A ruling on the manner of death – classifying the deaths as accidents or homicides – is pending the results of the state police investigation into the fire, officials said.

The county’s district attorney, Sam Sanguedolce, said a preliminary investigation suggests the fire broke out on the front porch at around 2.30am. 

Three people were able to escape the blaze, which destroyed the structure. The cause remains under investigation.

Nescopeck is a small town on the Susquehanna River, about 20 miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre.

One volunteer firefighter arrived to battle the blaze only to discover the victims were his own family, authorities said. 

Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter in the town of Nescopeck, said the 10 victims included his son, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives. 

Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter in the town of Nescopeck, said he arrived to fight the blaze only to realize the victims were his own relatives

Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter in the town of Nescopeck, said he arrived to fight the blaze only to realize the victims were his own relatives

Two of the minor victims who were killed in the fire in Nescopeck in the early hours of August 5
Firefighter Harold Baker said: 'I lost my son, my daughter, grandson, two other grandkids in there, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. All lost'

Two of the minor victims who were killed in the fire in Nescopeck in the early hours of August 5

Dale Baker, 19, is the youngest of the adult victims

Dale Baker, 19, is the youngest of the adult victims

Star Baker, pictured here with her fiancé Matthew Burger, was 22 years old

 Star Baker, pictured here with her fiancé Matthew Burger, was 22 years old

He said his two children and the other young victims were visiting their aunt and uncle’s home for swimming and other summertime fun.

He said 13 dogs were also in the two-story home, but didn’t say if he knew whether any survived.

‘All I wanted to do was go in there and get to these people, my family. That’s all that I was thinking about, getting in to them,’ Baker told the Associated Press.

Baker grabbed a hose and air pack, and started pouring water on the fire, desperate to make his way inside and calling out to his son. His chief realized whose house it was, and fellow firefighters escorted Baker back to the firehouse.

Baker said the address initially given for the call was a neighboring house. He realized it was his family members’ residence as the firetruck approached. He said his unit was the first on scene, and the house was already engulfed in flames.

‘There wasn’t nothing we could’ve done to get in there. We tried, but we couldn’t get in,’ said Baker, 57, who’s been a firefighter for 40 years.

His son, 19-year-old Dale Baker, had followed both of his parents into the fire service, joining when he was 16. Dale was among those killed in the blaze.

‘He said it all his life, he was just going to be like his dad,’ Harold Baker said.

Heidi Knorr, the Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company secretary, called Dale Baker ‘such a fun-loving soul. He just loved life.’

As state police continued their probe, the first two funerals were held Friday afternoon, with mourners gathering at a funeral home in Mansfield to remember Ariana Trout, 7, and her brother, 5-year-old Bradley Trout.

Ariana ‘loved learning about styling hair and makeup,’ according to her obituary, while Bradley enjoyed spending time at the library and playing Pokemon GO. He would have turned 6 on Thursday.

More funerals were scheduled for Sunday and Monday, including a joint service for 19-year-old volunteer firefighter Dale Baker and his sister, Star Baker, 22. 

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