15 Injured as Driver Crashes Into Event for Pennsylvania Fire Victims

At least 15 people were injured on Saturday when a driver plowed into a crowd of people in northeastern Pennsylvania who had gathered to raise money for people affected by a devastating home fire that had killed 10 people a week earlier.

Details were scarce and the local and state authorities, several hours after the crash, had not released information about what had occurred in Berwick, a borough about 45 miles southwest of Scranton that neighbors Nescopeck, where the fire tore through a two-story home on Aug. 5.

The conditions of the injured were not released and it was not immediately clear if anyone had died in the crash. But as of 10:15 p.m., Geisinger Medical Center was providing care for 15 patients “from an incident in Berwick,” Joseph H. Stender III, a spokesman, said in an email.

The fund-raiser was meant to benefit the victims and families of the house fire, including Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter who responded to the fire and ended up losing his 22-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son, as well as six other family members, in the blaze. Among those killed in the fire in Nescopeck were three children, ages 5, 6 and 7, the Pennsylvania State Police said. The oldest victim was 79.

In a cruel twist, just eight days after the fire, Mr. Baker responded as a volunteer firefighter to Saturday’s emergency. He said a daughter-in-law and several other relatives had been injured in today’s crash. “I haven’t processed the fire yet and now I got to deal with this,” he said.

The crash on Saturday night added another wave of grief to a small community devastated by the Aug. 5 fire that the authorities described as “violent” and “forceful.” The cause of the fire has not been released. Area residents struggled to process what had happened in barely more than a week’s time. The confusion and anger of locals was compounded because there were so many unanswered questions about the fire, Robin Massina, a Berwick resident who is the daughter of the Nescopeck mayor, said in an interview late Saturday.

“What is this madness?” Ms. Massina said. “Why is it happening? We’re a small town that probably hasn’t been in the news since the flood of like 1978.”

She said that the community pulled together after the fire, and that she believed enough money had been raised so that families could bury their loved ones and get back on their feet. The event on Saturday demonstrated the community’s spirit, but the violence that followed destroyed the healing process.

Before the crash, Lauren Hess, the owner of Intoxicology Department, the bar and restaurant that hosted the benefit, said she had quickly planned the event to help people affected by the fire, according to WNEP, a station based in Scranton. Donations from the community had poured in, she said.

“I got a call on Friday and I was immediately like, ‘What can I do to help because they are going through so much grief and pain?’” Ms. Hess told the station, adding that she was friends with mothers who lost children in the fire.

The event had started joyously, with scenes of laughing children, country music and water-balloon fights. “It’s going to be an amazing day!” organizers had posted on Facebook early Saturday.

The bar posted a statement late Saturday on Facebook calling the day “an absolute tragedy” and said that it would be closed until further notice.

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