JIM THORPE — State troopers said part-time Nesquehoning Officer Steven Homanko was driving his cruiser toward Jim Thorpe Monday night with his lights and sirens on when he lost control on Route 209.
His cruiser hit a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, killing Carola Sauers of Hazleton and injuring her husband, Michael Sauers.
“The family is going through a lot of grief over nonsense, and it’s a shame that this happened,” said Lou Snyder of Jim Thorpe.
State police are investigating whether Homanko was involved in a police chase.
Newswatch 16 spoke with some people who said they were listening to police scanners the night of the wreck.
They said what they heard leads them to believe it was a chase.
“They should have called it off before someone actually got killed,” said Shannon Ciocca of Jim Thorpe.
Some living in Jim Thorpe said the vehicle Officer Homanko was looking for Monday night was found shortly after the wreck on Fourth Street in the borough.
“The aftermath of everything, four police officers, four cop cars and a yellow Neon pulled over,” said James Strubinger of Jim Thorpe.
The crash involving Homanko is the second deadly crash involving a police officer in our area this year.
In January, 42-year-old James Robinson died in a wreck in Williamsport.
Investigators charged Williamsport Officer Jonathan Deprenda with homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter.
They said he was recklessly speeding to a pursuit.
“It shouldn’t have happened, absolutely shouldn’t have happened,” said Ciocca.
A police chief and instructor at Lackawanna College’s Police Academy in Scranton said state law requires each municipal police department have a policy on police pursuits.
Each cadet in the academy is taught to weigh the risk to the public against the immediate need to apprehend someone.
Every police department is required to submit paperwork to the state after each police pursuit.
Then, the state police put together annual reports.
According to the latest report, in 2012, there were 1,522 police pursuits.
More than 500 ended in crashes.
Fourteen people died as a result, 13 were violators, and one was an uninvolved person.
“It’s scary to think about it because I could have been in the car too, could have been me and my wife driving around, who knows?” said Jennifer Pape of Jim Thorpe.