BEAR CREEK TWP. — A crash involving a car and a pickup on what some deem an unsafe road claimed the lives of two people on Wednesday.
Police said Ann L. Rinko, 72, of Wilkes-Barre, and Ryan Michael Jacobson, 26, of Glen Richey, Clearfield County, were killed when Rinko’s car struck Jacobson and a pickup truck behind which Jacobson was standing, just south of Balsam Road and a few hundred yards south of the Bear Creek Township Hose Co.
Trooper Derek Unrue, investigating officer with state police at Wyoming, said the crash occurred right around 4 p.m. as Jacobson and William Michael Hiler, 31, of Beaver Falls, were standing near the rear tailgate of the 2011 white Dodge Ram 2500, which was parked on the west berm of the road.
The men were preparing to put up traffic control signs for tree-trimming work they were going to perform when Rinko’s 1989 brown Mercury Sable, which she was headed south, went off the west berm and struck Jacobson and the rear of the pickup.
Jacobson and Rinko were pronounced dead at the scene by Luzerne County Coroner William Lisman.
State police are continuing an investigation into the crash and released no further information Wednesday night.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation implemented several safety-related road improvements on Route 115 in Bear Creek Township about two years ago after local officials, residents and drivers complained about the stretch of roadway following some high-profile crashes, which included two fatalities.
Kimberly Biggs Keil, 45, died Jan. 12, 2010 when her vehicle was struck by an out-of-control truck headed the opposite way. Christina M. Rock, 38, died Jan. 7, 2010 when her vehicle hit black ice and collided with another vehicle in which a woman and young child were seriously injured.
Luzerne County Senior Judge Chester Muroski was involved in a one-car crash Jan. 4, 2010 when, he said, his car encountered ice, ran off the road and hit two mailboxes. He suffered minor injuries for which he was treated at a hospital and then released.
Approximately 6,200 vehicles travel on Route 115 daily from the Bear Creek dam to Blakeslee, according to a 2010 PennDOT traffic study.
Statistics from PennDOT show there were seven fatal crashes on Route 115 from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the Monroe County line, including 174 various other crashes, from 2005 to 2009.
There were four fatal crashes and 114 various other crashes on Route 115 from the turnpike to Interstate 81.
State representatives had called for PennDOT and state police to work together to make the roadway safe. State police began patrolling the area more often and PennDOT conducted an in-depth traffic and engineering study three years ago to recommend changes to the roadway.
Troopers wrote hundreds of tickets as they continued to patrol the area using marked, unmarked and non-conventional vehicles
The installation of two permanent message boards with radar capabilities, lowering the speed limit, adding rumble strips and removing passing lanes in the north and southbound lanes were implemented based on PennDOT’s recommendation to make the curvy road safe. The improvements cost $113,284 using money from the local district’s safety fund.
Still, fatal crashes continue to occur. Gerald Hendershot, 55, of White Haven, was killed when he lost control of his vehicle on 115 about a quarter mile south of the Bear Creek Dam and Beaupland Road in March 2011.
The southbound lane of Route 115 was closed and traffic was diverted along Balsam and Hemlock roads on Wednesday. Northbound traffic initially was able to pass by the scene at low speeds, but then was diverted as well.
Wednesday’s crash was first reported at 4:03 p.m., according to Luzerne County 911.