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I-81 crash kills two servicemen

January 20, 2009|By DON AINES

SCOTLAND, Pa. -- Two servicemen heading back to North Carolina were killed Tuesday morning in a multiple-vehicle accident on the northbound lanes of Interstate 81, about a mile south of exit 20.

Northbound I-81, which had been closed since the 6:40 a.m. crash, was open by 2:50 p.m., Pennsylvania State Police said.

Caleb A. Rushing, 19, of Denham Springs, La., and Justin C. Foster, 18, of Milton Pa., were pronounced dead at the scene by Franklin County Chief Deputy Coroner Paul T. Reed. The cause of death for both men was blunt force trauma to the head and neck, Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner said in a news release.

Timothy J. Miller Jr., 19, of Hughesville, Pa., the driver of the sport utility vehicle in which the other two were passengers, was flown by helicopter to York (Pa.) Hospital, Trooper Ed Asbury said. A York Hospital spokeswoman said Miller was not listed as a patient.

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The three men were apparently headed to Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine Corps base in North Carolina, Asbury said.

The crash involved two passenger vehicles, four tractor-trailers and a passenger bus carrying 37 people, police said. At approximately 6:45 a.m., the southbound sport utility vehicle crossed the median into the northbound lanes, struck a guardrail and then collided with the four tractor-trailers, Asbury said.

The other passenger vehicle struck the back of one of the trucks, Asbury said.

One lane of southbound I-81 was open to traffic as of 11 a.m. The northbound on-ramp of exit 17 was closed to keep vehicles off the interstate and traffic was being detoured onto U.S. 11, Asbury said.

An accident reconstructionist was being brought in from Harrisburg, Pa., to investigate the crash, he said.

The bus went into the east-side guardrail of the northbound lanes. No one on the bus was injured and Asbury said none of the other drivers appeared to be injured.

The 36 passengers on the bus were taken to the Scotland Community Center, their luggage stacked outside the building. Kathy Bittinger, a volunteer at the center, said she was called at 8:30 a.m. to come in, turn up the heat, and serve coffee and doughnuts to the passengers, who arrived at about 9:30 a.m., she said.

"Everyone was asleep. I was asleep," said Joe Dong of Summerville, Ga.

Dong, who boarded the bus at about 7 p.m. Monday, said the passengers were heading to New York.

Few of the passengers spoke English or wished to answer questions. Dong said he and his wife did not know the other passengers, and that he was headed to New York on personal business.

Dong also said he did not know the name of the charter bus company.

The crash occurred just before sunrise on a curve of the Interstate and the road was dry, Asbury said. The driver of the SUV might have fallen asleep, he said, but the investigation was continuing.

The commercial vehicles would be inspected by a motor carrier safety officer, but the drivers of the trucks and bus could have done little to avoid the crash, Asbury said.

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