Road Closure Calamity in Simpson

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FELL TOWNSHIP – Last weekend’s 26.2 mile Steamtown Marathon didn’t just pose a challenge for the thousands of runners, one couple in Lackawanna County claims the road closures trapped them in Simpson for a couple hours with no way out.

When Carolyn Ryan and her husband stepped out of their home in Simpson Sunday to head to a family wedding, they ran into a big problem at the intersection of Route 171.  Volunteers were blocking the road for a few thousand runners about to go by for the Steamtown Marathon.

"She said 'I don't know what to tell you, it's the marathon.'  I said 'well, we have to get out of here and there's no other way out of here.'  You have to hit 171 from any way you leave these few blocks,” said Carolyn Ryan of Simpson.

"There was no signage, nobody knew what was going on and when I wanted to leave they wouldn't let me leave. Even when there was a break in the runners,” said Stephen Ryan.

Bridge construction is what Steamtown Marathon Director Bill King says contributed to the clogged up area along the route, the same route runners have taken for 18 years.

"We tried to pre-plan with it by meeting with PennDOT and the subcontractors to come up with a game plan for addressing it but unfortunately it did cause an issue for a few people and for that I apologize,” King said.

But the Ryans say what volunteers did next upset them even more.

"They had one guy stand in front of us, one guy stand behind us and two volunteers blocked the open road on Jefferson, held us against our will for over 50 minutes,” said Ryan.

After being stuck on one side of the bridge in Simpson for several hours during the Steamtown Marathon the Ryans say they're fighting so it hopefully never happens again.

"Life doesn't stop because of the Steamtown Marathon, there's still church, medicine, weddings, etc.,” said Ryan.

"They need to follow the law is all they need to do.  I've been held up, I didn't mind being held up 10,15 minutes, being held up an hour and 45 minutes, yeah that was very upsetting,” said Ryan.

State police say the Ryan's have filed a complaint saying they were held against their will.  Troopers cannot comment any further due to an internal investigation.

Race officials say they too are looking into the situation.

"Being aware of this now obviously we're going to take a look at what exactly happened, what we can do to ameliorate that problem moving forward,” said King.


  • Elizabeth Powell

    Do these people live in a cave? to say they had no idea what was going on is an outright lie. They over reacted to the situation and could have been well on their way if they had done as directed initially. They endangered people – runners and volunteers alike. Shame on them.

  • Annoyedcitizen

    The people I know that witnessed it are far from being “YUPPIES.” If you’re going to insult them-you need to learn how to spell…And this marathon goes on the same time every year. I’m sure a lot of people that live in that area were told continuously about possible detours, etc. Like what Jen said. They should have listened-and how dare they threaten to run over the runners! People will do anything to get their couple minutes of fame I suppose.

  • SeMi57

    There was/are other ways around from Jefferson Street, they go running (no pun intended) to Channel 16 for the hype, but if they watched Channel 16 the week leading up to the marathon they would have seen that they may need to plan things out differently because of the marathon!

  • Donna

    They were told right in the beginning to make a left, it was that simple. They might have been a little late because they had to take an alternate route. But they were insisting on going over the bridge, because they had a wedding and that was much more important than this Marathon. , . And when they decided to make the left, they tried to move the car as the runners WERE going by. Again because that wedding was more important then these runners running for this marathon. And Yes the Flagger did stand in front of the car to stop them “go Figure”. I guess he didn’t hear her when she was screaming About the wedding being more important then this Marathon …Well I hope you enjoyed your wedding……. I know I really enjoyed this Marathon and yes I do think this Marathon was far more important then that wedding!!!!!

    noun, plural hon·es·ties.
    the quality or fact of being honest; uprightness and fairnes

  • Isawitall

    I happened to be a spectator right where this incident took place and I can tell you first hand that the “detainees” are not telling the truth. They were given an opportunity to leave and refused to take it because they wanted to drive over the one lane bridge that the runners were on instead of taking an alternate route. THEY are the ones that were rude, ignorant and completely out of control. I saw the driver attempt to go around the flagger and almost run him over twice and I also heard the driver threaten to run over the drivers and tell the flagger that a lot of people were going to be hurt and it would be the flagger’s fault. The woman continued her screaming and carrying on in the presence of the state police until the officer told her he was going to arrest her if she did not get back in her car.

    • Iwilltestify

      I was there also and the story that Isawitall told was the real story. These people were way out of order and where given plenty of opportunity to exit on Jefferson instead they opened their door so runners had to go around them. The only rude and arrogant people there was them! So sad you did not get both sides of this before airing this segment.

  • Jen

    This story makes me shake my head in disgust. I ran in the marathon last Sunday and I am a former resident of Fell Township. I did not witness the incident but surely heard about it. I experienced vehicles, along the race, almost hitting runners due to not paying attention. This is why we are asked to NOT wear our ipods during the race so we are more alert to our surrounding. I was very grateful for the volunteers and law enforcement who kept us safe from traffic during the marathon.

    To say there weren’t signs or notice is not accurate. This was the 18th year for the marathon, on the same Sunday in Oct as always, it was all over the news and the marathon committee was out Friday/Sat. before putting out barricades and mile markers. If you’re a resident of that area, you’d have to think to yourself……oh yeah the marathon is this weekend.
    Also, the biggest issue I have, is that residents of Simpson/Fell Township know the bridge is not the only exit out.

    This couple is being very dramatic about the whole thing. There is so much negativity in the world and the marathon, which benefits St. Joseph’s Center…is such a positive event. This couple needs some perspective. They still get up in the morning and live their lives. There are residents in St. Joe’s who can’t speak, walk or feed themselves. The Steamtown Marathon helps make their lives a little better. The marathon also provides individuals, like myself, who chose a healthy lifestyle of running, set goals and achieve them with the help of the volunteers, police, committee and spectators.

  • Another Witness

    I was among the spectators at the Steamtown Marathon and witnessed this incident first hand. I’m furious to hear this couple’s account of what they claim to have happened and am disappointed in WNEP’s poor reporting and lack of investigation into the WHOLE story. How easy would it have been to visit any neighbor on the road right before the bridge–we ALL witnessed it! These people were completely at fault and the man INTENTIONALLY ignored the flagger’s direction to take a left onto Jefferson and, instead, tried to accelerate his car to maneuver it past him and straight through on 171, were runners were already passing. He truly almost hit the flagger with his car! And not once, but TWICE! We all called 911 to get the state police there as soon as possible because this driver was dangerously out of line! His wife jumped out of the car and began yelling at pretty much everybody in sight and was threatening to “knock out” one spectator who was simply cheering on the runners.

    Back in the car, the man then tried to reverse the car again to flee the area and couldn’t get out with all of the runners and spectators around. He then threatened to the flagger that a lot of people were going to get hurt and it would all be his fault! When the state troopers arrived, the couple immediately ran up the bridge to meet them first while all of us bystanders stood back to let them show their true colors to the officers on their own! After hearing their side of the story, the officers came over to the scene and attempted to get a statement from a witness who began speaking and immediately found the woman’s hand in his face as she screamed, “SHUT UP!” The officer then took the man aside to get his statement without the couple interrupting–as they had been given the same treatment. After getting a few statements, the woman was still irrational and the officers were telling them to move their car off of the road. The woman kept ignoring the officers and was trying to take pictures of the “lack of road closed signs” to which the officer pointed at the flaggers and said, “THEY were your sign!”

    This couple was SO wrong and we were all shocked to see them drive away with only a court date! This man almost ran down this poor flagger twice! We are all HAPPY to go to that court date to tell them what we all saw happen. This couple was given MULTIPLE chances to turn left onto Jefferson before the bulk of the runners would pass through, but chose to ignore the flagger and, in doing so, almost hit him! TWICE! Their claim that they weren’t allowed to turn on the street is a blatant lie. They were given that option in the very beginning! They weren’t allowed to take the turn AFTER the state troopers had been called and we spectators were TOLD to not let them leave the scene. This man said that he wasn’t allowed to leave, even when there was a break in the runners…. That is true. BECAUSE YOU ALMOST RAN THE FLAGGER DOWN PURPOSEFULLY!!!! TWICE! It’s scary to think that they believe they’re the victims here! I so look forward to hearing the outcome of their court date!

  • Coachm228

    Maybe if you did a little more research or talked to the DOZENS of people who witnessed this happen instead of just the irate driver and his wife, you would know that this couple was given MULTIPLE chances to make a left hand turn before the bulk of the runners approached the bridge. This couple first turned on the road after being told that the bridge was closed by workers. After turning on the road, they were told again that the road was closed, but they could turn left almost a dozen times, but refused the option. The driver even swerved, hit the gas and almost ran over the road flagger TWICE, which is when the police were called. The driver also said he was going to turn into the runners and that a lot of people were going to get hurt and it was going to be the road flagger’s fault because he wouldn’t let them go straight over the bridge. They were held by volunteers because the state police TOLD observers to not let the car leave until they got there. They were not held for a “couple of hours” or “several hours” it was just about an hour total and if they turned off the road like they were asked to instead of insisting that they continue over the bridge as runners were running, they would have been on their way well before that without incident.

    All workers and volunteers were very clear, calm, and were very aware of what was going on. The marathon has been well advertised and planned for years, the road closures were marked by volunteers telling drivers which way they could go.

    Since when is journalism reporting one side of a story without investigating further? Poor reporting here. Get a better account of the incident before creating your story. Almost everyone who lives there was out and saw the whole thing happen.

    • Brutal Honesty

      No they were not. There was no direction,No signs,No courtesy by the workers of the marathon. They were rude and arrogant when I tried to leave as well. Typical yuppys.

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