AVOCA — A crash that closed part of Interstate 81 Wednesday morning near the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport left at least two people dead.
Investigators and friends of two men who died in that crash are trying to figure out why they would stop a minivan in the middle of Interstate 81.
PennDOT says this deadly crash happened on a stretch of the highway in Luzerne County where safety improvements are scheduled to start later this summer.
State troopers believe a white minivan was stopped in the northbound lanes of Interstate 81 in Avoca when it was rear-ended and crumpled by a tractor-trailer around 2:30 a.m.
Both men in the minivan – Anthony Lizza, 58, of Old Forge and Jeffrey Godeck , 52, of Moosic – died in the crash.
The driver of the rig – Charles Brown, 62, of Sugarloaf was taken to the hospital.
The northbound lanes of the highway were closed for nearly seven hours as police investigated.
The loss from the deadly crash is being felt in Lackawanna County. The mayor of Old Forge tells Newswatch 16 that she grew up with Anthony Lizza and that his family is well known in this community.
“Tony was a wonderful, wonderful person. A great family guy, very close to his brother and his parents. They are the nicest, kindest people,” said Mayor Michele Avvisato of Old Forge.
Mayor Avvisato says Anthony’s father owns a plumbing business in Old Forge.
The other crash victim, Jeffrey Godeck, used to have his car insurance through the office Avvisato works at on Main Street.
PennDOT says work should start soon on a scheduled $42 million construction project.
Contractors will make improvements to the stretch of Interstate 81 where the deadly crash happened as well as overhaul the interchange where drivers enter and exit the highway to get to Avoca or to the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton International Airport.
“When you’re getting Interstate 81, whether you’re going north or south, we’re extending those ramps as well. So, a lot of what we’re doing down here is safety improvement and that’s why we’re doing this,” said PennDOT spokesman James May.
Penndot says overnight resurfacing work on this part of Interstate 81 should start later this summer but there were no construction or lane closures at the time of this deadly crash.