Crashing a Conneaut Lake Park Volunteer Fire Department fire truck into the rear of another fire vehicle during a funeral procession late last month has led to traffic charges being filed against the man driving the truck.
The crash knocked one of Conneaut Lake Park Volunteer Fire Department’s fire trucks out of service until further notice and apparently led to a change in fire chiefs within that department.
Henry R. Starcher, 51, of Conneaut Lake, was charged by Pennsylvania State Police with traffic summary violations of following too closely and drivers required to be licensed for the April 26 crash on Harmonsburg Road in Summit Township.
Starcher has since pleaded guilty to the following too closely charge and has been ordered to pay $141.50 in fines and costs by Magisterial District Judge Rita Marwood. Starcher is contesting the driving without a license charge, according to court records.
Court records show Starcher’s license to drive was suspended on April 24 — two days before the crash — when he was accepted into Crawford County Court of Common Pleas’ accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program for a 2017 case.
According to a state police news release about the April 26 crash, Starcher was driving Conneaut Lake Park VFD’s 1999 pumper/tanker truck east on Harmonsburg Road when it ran into the rear of a Ford F350 pickup truck at 12:39 p.m. The pickup truck is a utility/brush fire truck owned by Fellows Club Volunteer Fire Department of Conneautville.
The Ford F350 pickup truck, driven by David C. Miller, 70, of Conneautville, was slowing down for stopped traffic when it was struck from behind, the news release said. The impact then pushed the pickup truck into the rear of a sport utility vehicle driven by Jean Myers, 43, of Greenville, according to state police.
Miller was taken to Meadville Medical Center for treatment of a suspected minor injury, police said. Starcher, Miller, a passenger in the pickup truck with Miller, Myers and two passengers in his SUV all were wearing seat belts, police said. Only Miller was injured.
The incident will impact Conneaut Lake Park VFD’s ability to respond to fires indefinitely.
“We received a call shortly before 1:59 p.m. on 04/26/2018 that due to an accident, 5-1 would be out of service until further notice,” Kevin Nicholson, Crawford County’s director of Public Safety, confirmed in an email to the Tribune. “We are to dispatch an engine from Summit to assist Conneaut Lake Park on any of the Park’s fire incidents.”
Conneaut Lake Park VFD is Department 5, and 5-1 is one of the department’s pumper/tanker trucks under the county’s 911 dispatching system.
Nicholson also confirmed there was notification of a change in Conneaut Lake Park VFD’s leadership when the Department of Public Safety received the fire truck out of service call. Starcher was serving as fire chief of Conneaut Lake Park VFD, but David Chason is now chief, Nicholson confirmed.
Tribune attempts to contact Fred Vincent, Conneaut Lake Park Volunteer Fire Department’s president, were unsuccessful.
Crawford County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Spataro ordered Starcher’s license to drive suspended April 24 when Starcher was accepted into the ARD program that day, according to court records.
State police charged Starcher with driving under the influence and a total of 18 traffic summary counts in connection with a crash Nov. 17, 2017, in Sadsbury Township. In the DUI case, state police allege Starcher’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level was 0.147 percent. Under Pennsylvania law, a BAC level of 0.08 is considered intoxicated. Police also allege Starcher drove an SUV at 95 miles per hour and struck a stop sign, a gas meter on the side of a residence and mailboxes in that incident.
The ARD program allows first-time criminal offenders an opportunity to be rehabilitated and are not considered guilty under the law. The person moves through the legal system quicker rather than formally going to trial.
If the person successfully completes an ARD program, the person may petition the court to have the ARD charges dismissed and the case expunged. If an offender does not comply with the program’s conditions, the person may be removed from ARD and the case goes back on the criminal trial list.
Spataro ordered Starcher to serve 12 months of probation and pay a $250 administrative fee plus court costs under the ARD program for the DUI charge.
Starcher entered guilty pleas to six of 18 summary traffic counts filed in connection with the Nov. 17, 2017, incident, according to court records. Starcher pleaded guilty to speeding, accidents involving damage to unattended property, failing to keep right, failing to stop at a stop sign, not using a turn signal and not wearing a seat belt and was ordered to pay $530 in fines, according to court records.