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Hagerstown man killed on his way back from fishing

July 03, 2008|By DON AINES

Pennsylvania State Police and the Franklin County Coroner's Office were investigating the death of a retired 68-year-old Hagerstown man whose pickup truck burst into flames after hitting a bridge abutment on Interstate 81 in Antrim Township Wednesday.

Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner identified the driver as Howard Paul Witmer of 518 Guilford Ave. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:30 p.m. An autopsy will be performed today at Lehigh Valley Medical Center in Allentown, Pa., to determine the cause and manner of death and "whether it may have been health-related."

Witmer might have been dead before the 11:55 a.m. crash near Exit 5, police said. He was driving a 1990 GMC pickup south when the vehicle went off the road, into the median and struck the bridge abutment.

The northbound lanes of the interstate reopened at about 2 p.m., according to a county 911 dispatcher.

Northbound traffic was detoured onto U.S. 11 between Exits 3 and 5 while Pennsylvania State Police investigated and emergency personnel cleared the scene of the crash.

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Police are asking any witnesses to call them at 717-264-5161.

"He was doing what he did since he retired, he was fishing in Marion (Pa.)," said Jacqueline Witmer, his wife of more than 46 years. He had recently bragged of catching 50 trout so far this year, she said.

Howard Witmer had a son, Patrick, and a daughter, Sarah Starner, and four grandchildren, she said.

"He was just a quiet kind of a guy. He loved his grandchildren," Witmer said. He particularly loved his youngest granddaughter, 5-year-old Sarah Witmer, who was born when Witmer was battling kidney cancer, his wife said.

Doctors had given her husband two years to live at the time, but Sarah's birth gave him an incentive to go on, Jacqueline Witmer said.

"Right now my heart's breaking, but back then they told us something other than the cancer would take him," she said.

Howard Witmer was retired from the former Danzer Metal Works in Hagerstown and prior to that had worked for Pangborn, his wife said. He had also been a sergeant first class in the Maryland National Guard, having served more than 30 years, she said.

Witmer had been an avid hunter, but has not been able to go hunting in the past couple of years because of his health, she said. He also loved to do puzzles and was a fan of Sudoku, she said.


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