Four people are dead and several others injured after two crashes just hours and miles apart on Interstate 78 in Berks County. State Trooper David Boehm says it's rough. "It's horrible. It's Christmastime and our heartfelt thoughts go out to the people who were killed," Boehm says. Four vehicles were involved in the first wreck just before 8:30 Tuesday night on I-78 eastbound near the Route 61 exit in Tilden Township. The driver of an empty school bus did not see traffic stopped in a construction zone, and hit a car, causing it to become lodged underneath the bus. The bus then hit another car, pushing it into a tractor-trailer. The driver of the first car, 20-year-old August Schwartz of South Whitehall Township and a passenger in the second car, 25-year-old Thalia Jackson of Easton were both killed. About two hours later and roughly 10 miles west of the first crash, a tractor-trailer apparrently failed to slow down for stopped traffic, causing a five-vehicle chain reaction crash. Two people died at that scene, one was a 24-year-old Reading woman riding in the back seat of a car, and the other was a 54-year-old Williamsport man driving an SUV. Another person involved was taken to the hospital in very critical condition.
A 36-year-old man, who was out on bail after being arrested in June on drug and weapons charges, was taken into custody again Wednesday morning in Easton. Police say this time, Ronald James was arrested with $1,600 in crack and nearly $3,000 in cash in a home in the 1900 block of Ferry Street in Wilson. James is being returned behind bars under $150,000 bail.
A person is behind bars for allegedly making a threat to the Jim Thorpe School District. The incident happened yesterday and when the suspect threatened violence against the school district. They were taken to a nearby hospital for mental health evaluation before jail, but charges are pending at this time as the investigation continues.
It looks like Lehigh County may be getting its own Department of Health. Wednesday night, Lehigh County commissioners voted to approve a resolution that expresses its intention to create a county Department of Health. Commissioners Chairman Geoff Brace says the vote doesn't create a health department, but 'does' move the process forward. All nine commissioners supported the resolution and all agreed to sign on as sponsors. The vote came six months after commissioners had approved the creation of a task force to determine whether a health bureau is needed.
If you still have some Christmas decorations to put up outside, Accu-Weather's Joe Lundberg says you can do it today comfortably. "We're going to make a run at the record today, which is 60. If we don't get there, we're going to be right next door to it," Lundberg says. Lundberg says we'll be well into the 50s tomorrow as well before things take a turn for the cooler Saturday.
Gov. Tom Wolf has asked the federal government to step in and help with staffing issues due to the lack of health care workers during this most recent COVID surge. The Wolf administration has requested Federal Emergency Management Agency "strike teams" for hospitals and nursing homes also because of persistent staff shortages. Hospitals across the state reporting exceedingly long emergency-room wait times, while staffing shortages in nursing homes are forcing some to not accept new residents. Officials say that the nursing home situation is in turn preventing jam-packed hospitals from discharging those who require lower levels of care.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy observed the one-year anniversary of the state's first COVID-19 vaccination with "Get Boosted NJ Day." "That's why we're here today. This isn't just an anniversary celebration, although it is. It is also a renewed, please pardon the pun, call to arms," the governor said. It was December 15th, 2020, when the first shot was administered in New Jersey. Now, officials are pushing for more people to get the booster shot since protection can decrease over time from the first dose of the vaccine.
City leaders and representatives from police and firefighters' groups have gotten their chance to tell state legislators about what legalizing consumer fireworks has meant for their work loads. They say also that part of the law that gives local governments the latitude to exercise control over fireworks is not enforceable and only makes things worse for emergency responders. In Reading alone, city police said they responded to 215 fireworks-related incidents this past year. shooting off consumer fireworks was made legal in Pennsylvania four years ago and many think the law needs to be changed again. Sen. Judy Schwank of Berks County has authored a bill to repeal legalization of personal fireworks.
State officials say Pennsylvania numbers mirror national statistics that show reckless driving has increased. PennDOT says in 2020, roadway deaths were up six percent, despite a decline in daily vehicle miles traveled by 17 percent. So far, preliminary data for 2021 shows an increase in Pennsylvania crash fatalities by nine percent. PennDOT spokesperson Jennifer Kuntch urges all drivers to think before they use their cell phones on the road and never drive impaired. She says additionally, wearing a seat belt is the most effective action you can do to protect yourself or your loved ones in a crash.
A measure dealing with expanded sales of ready-to-drink cocktails in Pennsylvania has narrowly passed the state Senate. A revived proposal would loosen the state's current alcohol sales laws by adding pre-packaged cocktails to the list of alcoholic beverages that can be sold outside state-run liquor stores. The so-called "ready-to-go" cocktails would be able to be sold for off-premise-use at bars and taverns as well as beer distributorships and groceries. The measure now heads to the state House, where a similar proposal stalled this summer.
Pennsylvania's state Senate has approved legislation to overhaul how probation is handled in the state. The 46 to four vote sends the bill to the House for further consideration, but that's where it's gotten stuck before. Last year, the same kind of legislation died without being voted on. State law currently does not limit the length of probation sentences and critics say non-violent offenders are often sent to jail on technical violations that aren't crimes.
New Jersey is now accepting license applications for marijuana cultivation centers, manufacturers and testing laboratories. This process has to happen before sales start for recreational marijuana, which was approved by voters last year. Applications for recreational marijuana dispensaries will start on March 15th. The Cannabis Regulators Commission has not yet said when sales can begin.