Data shows possible correlation to I-83 construction and spike in crashes

LOWER PAXTON TOWNSHIP, Dauphin County, Pa. - It was the most horrific crash Colonial Park Fire Company #1's Assistant Chief says he's ever seen. Two men and a toddler were killed after a man believed to have been drunk cause a 12-car accident on the interstate near Union Deposit Road.

It was Friday, October 12th, around 8:30 that night. A call came into the department for a three car crash with entrapment.

"With the interstate and the construction and people's driving abilities, it came in as a normal call," said Assistant Chief Che Kerestes.

The amount of times the Colonial Park Fire Department responded to crashes on a five mile portion of I83 near Union Deposit Road has jumped. Up about 80 percent from 2015-2016 when construction began. PennDOT data covers crashes on I83 from I81 to Derry Street. They show a 30 percent increase in that same time period.

While alcohol is believed to have been the primary reason for the deadly crash on October 12th, some believe construction may have also been a factor.

“I saw two balls of flames," said Kerestes. "On our arrival it was very overwhelming to say that the least.”

Kerestes credits a fire chief off-duty who happened to be on I83 when the accident happened. He was able to get a head start in caring for people who were hurt.

“He gave me a rundown of what he had, where patients were, whom need help, roughly how many vehicles we had," said Kerestes. "So that knocked off the first couple things I needed to do so I could go move on to more important things."

Kerestes says this was the worst he's responded to in his 10-years as a firefighter. One he will remember for the rest of his life.

“I think a lot of us, of course we have our ways of not thinking about things but we still do," said Kerestes. "I know for a fact I’ve thought about it every single day whether it’s seeing a tractor trailer or a car, it definitely just reminds you.”

A PennDOT spokesperson says while data does show an increase in accidents it is hard to determine whether it is because of construction.

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