TUNKHANNOCK TWP. — An emergency medical technician with Tunkhannock Community Ambulance Association died from injuries he suffered in a crash on state Route 29 Wednesday night.
Township police identified the man as 46-year-old Thomas M. Gruen of Tunkhannock.
Gruen was a passenger in a pickup truck driven by Tunkhannock Ambulance EMT Jeffrey Plata, 29, of Tunkhannock. They were both responding to a 911 emergency call during a violent thunderstorm.
Police said Plata lost control on a rain covered roadway at about 9:30 p.m. The pickup spun and crossed both lanes of travel striking several trees, police said.
Gruen suffered multiple traumatic injuries and was transported to Geisinger-Community Medical Center in Scranton, where he died at 1:17 a.m. Thursday, Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Roland said in a news release.
An autopsy is scheduled today.
Plata was treated and released from a hospital.
Gruen was a volunteer with Tunkhannock Community Ambulance Association for many years. He was trained as an EMT, vehicle rescue technician and swift-water rescue technician. He was a former ambulance crew chief and a former board director, according to a statement released by the association.
Michael Henn, ambulance association chief and president, said he has known Gruen for six or seven years through the association.
“He was very active in many theaters — emergency services, community, church. He was a real go-getter, always a life-of-the-party type guy,” Henn said of Gruen.
But Gruen also had a very serious side, trained in many facets of lifesaving procedures. And he was definitely a person you could count on in a pinch.
When he wasn’t working for C.S. VerBryck Fuel Sales or volunteering with the ambulance association, Gruen loved camping, riding his motorcycle and riding the new speedboat he recently purchased, Henn said.
“And he loved participating in church activities. That was a big part of his life,” Henn said.
“This is very much a loss for his immediate family and for his extended family here at the association,” Henn said. “He’s going to be missed greatly.”
Lake Winola Fire Chief Marty Bonifanti said his department has been responding to assist with Tunkhannock’s calls since Gruen’s death. “Their personnel are naturally grief stricken, so Lake Winola is helping out whenever we can,” he said.
Bonifanti said he worked with Gruen on many occasions at crash scenes and recently operated a piece of equipment under his direction.
“He was good on the scene. He was on a lot of calls and was well trained,” Bonifanti said. “From everything I saw, he was very dedicated to helping people.”
A viewing will be held at the Assembly of God Church, North Bridge Street, Tunkhannock, from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Funeral services under the direction of Sheldon Kukuchka Funeral Home will begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Assembly of God Church, Tunkhannock.
Any emergency service organizations that wish to be involved in the funeral services/arrangements should call Gene Dziak at the Wyoming County Emergency Management Agency at 570-836-2828 for more information.
Read the obituary, page 8A.