Pa. EMT charged for wreck that killed colleague

Police charged Jeffrey Plata with homicide by vehicle, saying he was driving 74 mph in the pouring rain before the crash


TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. — People in Wyoming County have mixed opinions after learning that an EMT has been charged with homicide by vehicle for a crash that killed a fellow EMT.

It was a wreck that stunned the Tunkhannock community back in May.

The two ambulance workers were on their way to help at another crash when they wrecked.  Tom Gruen was killed and now police say the driver Jeffrey Plata is to blame.

Six months after the deadly crash along Route 92 near Tunkhannock, there’s still a cross hanging on the tree mangled when a pickup truck plowed into it.

Now, the driver of that truck is accused of causing the wreck.

Police have charged Jeffrey Plata with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving and more.

Plata and Tom Gruen, both Tunkhannock ambulance EMTs, were on their way to help at another crash, when they crashed.  Gruen was killed.

“It’s a double tragedy, that’s for sure.”

Bob Stevens knew Gruen well.  It seems much of Tunkhannock did. His death stunned and saddened the community. But despite Gruen’s personality and popularity, some people are also saddened hearing about the homicide charges.

“It’s a shame, it’s a shame.  He meant well.  Nothing was intentional there. That’s a shame, I think,” said Stevens.

In arrest papers, police say a sensor in Plata’s pickup truck showed it was going 74 miles an hour when it crashed. The speed limit along Route 92 is 45 miles an hour and that night, it was pouring rain.

“He was on his way to help someone out.  He didn’t mean to kill the other guy, he didn’t want to get hurt himself in this accident but accidents happen,” said Judy Vibbard of Dimock.

Plata posted a tribute to Gruen at the top of his Facebook page. He too lost a friend.

The district attorney acknowledges what happened wasn’t intentional but he says it was a crime.

The D.A. says just because Plata was a firefighter and EMT heading to a crash, didn’t justify reckless driving. It resulted in a loss of life and no one disputes that was quite a loss.

“Very good guy, good guy. Well liked, good for the community,” Stevens added.

If convicted, Jeffrey Plata could find himself in prison for a year or more for the involuntary manslaughter and homicide by vehicle charges.

Republished with permission from WNEP

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