Reading man ID'd as victim of deadly crash on Pennsylvania Turnpike near Harrisburg

Highway reopened after about 14 hours of investigation, cleanup

Posted: 12:29 PM EST Feb 05, 2014   Updated: 6:44 PM EST Feb 05, 2014
Fatal crash on Pa. Turnpike

A Berks County man was killed in a crash that closed a stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Harrisburg for nearly 14 hours.

The accident happened as the snow was falling around 11 p.m. Tuesday at milepost 238, between the Gettysburg Pike and the Harrisburg West interchanges, in East Allen Twp., Cumberland County.

David Vanevery was behind the wheel of a tractor trailer when his rig jackknifed as he attempted to avoid hitting a disabled vehicle in the eastbound lanes, state police said.

Vanevery's truck was then struck from behind by another tractor trailer, said police, adding that the impact pushed Vanevery's truck into the disabled vehicle and cut his trailer in half. The dislodged half of the trailer was then thrown into the westbound lanes, hitting another vehicle.

Vanevery, 70, of Reading died at the scene.

"I thought it was a dream. Pretty much devastated," said the accident victim's son, Tory Baer, adding that his dad was a Vietnam veteran who was always offering a helping hand to others. "He was just a very giving guy. He gave to everybody and anybody, charities and all kinds of stuff. He was always helping neighbors out if they needed anything."

Now, less than 24 hours after Vanevery's death, his wife and four sons are grieving his loss.

"The whole world is going to change in a lot of ways. I know we are going to miss him. We miss him already. I know it is going to take a long time to get back to any sense of normal," said Baer.

Two other people -- a man from Brooklyn, N.Y., and another from Elkton, Md. -- were seriously injured in the accident, state police said.

Both the eastbound and westbound lanes of the turnpike remained closed until about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday while police investigated the accident and crews worked to remove the wreckage.

"When you have an accident like that, it causes a backup of traffic in both sides, I believe," said Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett, who noted that the state learned lessons from the Valentine's Day storm of 2007, when a snowstorm and a series of accidents stranded hundreds of motorists on Interstate 78 in Berks County for more than 24 hours.

"We have established early on a protocol between the Department of Transportation, the Turnpike Commission and the state police where there is a backup of traffic for an hour or so, safety checks are made... where PennDOT or turnpike or state police or any number of vehicles are directed to go out and check on individuals in those vehicles," Corbett said.

Pa. Turnpike crash

Officials said the cleanup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike took longer than expected, delaying the highway's reopening.

Officials also warned motorists to beware of many fallen trees, some of them blocking lanes, on portions of the southeastern part of the turnpike and the southern part of the Northeast Extension (I-476).