Deadly Crash Stopped Traffic on I-81 in Lackawanna County

SCRANTON — A deadly crash tied up traffic on Interstate 81 South in Scranton for several hours Monday evening.

Authorities said Margo Benipayo, 58, of Ontario, Canada was a passenger in the car and was killed. The driver, Vilko Raitmaier, 61, also of Ontario Canada and another passenger, Nina Bolanos, 55, from California had to be taken to the hospital.

The car they were in slammed into an embankment between the Main Avenue and Dickson City exits in the construction zone on I-81 around 5:30 p.m.

Authorities had to shut down both lanes of I-81 South for several hours.

32 comments

  • Kara

    To those that are blaming the driver or saying that Canadians are crappy drivers…

    Please do not be so insensitive and heartless.

    A precious life was lost in this tragic accident. It was the life of a beautiful woman who I had the great pleasure of knowing. My two friends had lost their mother in this accident. Tita Margo was a funny, wise, sweet, and kind-hearted woman. It is truly devastating that she had gone so soon.

    Though I only knew her briefly, her smile will stay with me for a very long time. Deepest condolences to you Jessie, as well as the entire family and loved ones of Tita Margo.
    God bless the people that were injured in this accident.

  • Dave

    You can put up all the signs you want but when there is NO enforcement of traffic laws on 81 in the Scranton area people are going to get killed

  • Jessie

    This was my mother in law that past away in this tragic accident, it doesn’t matter if you are African American, Russian, Asian, white, or any other nationality, being Canadian has nothing to do with driving. Everyone drives there own way. After a long day of walking their daughter down the isle and spending hours on end bonding with friends and family they went home and planned a trip to show visitors the states. They were on a very long road trip and unfortunately it ended this way. You guys need to keep in mind that they do have children that are following this post and grieving over this death. She was a mom of 3 girls and a beloved wife to Vilco. There are also thousands of sunfires. I have driven with Vilco on many occasions and he barely even hits 100 on the highway so for your statement of him weaving in and out of traffic I believe it to be false. He is a kind and gentle soul, he doesn’t drive like and asshole. Accidents happen and unfortunately we all lost apart of us in this one, although her physical body may not be here we all know her spiritual one is. Rest in peace mom, you were an amazing woman.

  • Ruby

    I am very close with the daughter of the woman who was killed in this accident. The family is devistated and heart broken. To post that Canadian drivers are nuts is very disrespectful especially when a life was claimed. This is a tragic accident and shouldn’t have happened. The Saturday prior to this accident she got to walk her daughter down the isle at her wedding and now that’s the last memory her children have of her. Have a heart! RIP Margo

  • Joe

    I was 30 seconds behind the car when the accident happened. It was right in the middle of the hill between the Route 6 exit and the Main Ave exit. The lanes aren’t narrow here. The roadway has already been resurfaced. The only reason the area is even considered a construction zone is because of the proximity of the Main Ave bridge work and the work near the Route 6 exit. I agree that the construction on this stretch of 81 is inconvenient, slow, and dangerous, but I do not believe that it caused this crash.

    • alley

      We were 3 cars behind this accident that man miles back was lane jumping and driving very very unsafly for the conditions of the traffic, he tried cutting people off in the fast lane, the fast lane tightened up and he over corrected into the right lane and lost control of the vehicle it was 100 percent his fault not the construction nor any one else’s

  • Lolita Remino

    they prolong jobs to make more money….every time i pass by “workers”…2-4 are doing something while 10 others stand around b.sing! Total BS!

  • DJ

    What a disaster, 81 is a crime. Driving past these construction areas and seeing no work happening is a sin. These projects should be completed over a few months, not years. Penn Dot should be help responsible.

    • Kelly

      I agree. I moved from the area to Florida and the road projects are managed so much better here. Signs mark areas before construction begins and the jobs are completed quickly.In the morning before the construction begins, the barrels and cones are placed. Before the afternoon rush, they are removed and the area is well lit and marked. Closed off sections are few and far between because workers are actually working all day. Police and sheriff cars patrol and make sure drivers stay alert. Better project management is badly needed there.

  • Bryan

    What needs to be done is the 81 stretch between Bear Creek and Dickson City needs be a minimum of 3 lanes wide each direction. These narrow 2 lane highways just don’t work here anymore. It’s too dangerous, and too much congestion.

  • SJD

    For starters this job is federally funded, not funded by the state or its taxpayers. Secondly, it is a 3 year project due to the fact that there were 4 bridge replacements, not just a pavement resurfacing project. People complain that the roads are bad and then they complain when they are being repaired. I agree that PA roads and bridges are the worst, but so are the drivers that do not adhere to the posted signs. Speed limits are lower in construction zones for a reason, it’s to save lives.

    • christine

      so then why do they have to put up barrels and constructions zones in places they ARENT working and completing the work for a long time. i really hate this. work on one stretch at a time, complete it quickly, and then move on. i dont understand why there are MILES AND MILES of construction crap and no work, suddenly you come across a yellow truck working. several miles away from what has been blocked up.

      • DQRT

        There are only barriers and cones where it is an active work zone. Just because you don’t see someone when you are flying by at 60mph doesn’t mean they are not there. There is a lot of work being done by large machines that need more than a 2 inch gap to work in. There is a lot of work happening that requires miles of pipe or rebar being placed. It would take even longer than it already does if they had to move the barriers and cones 3 feet every time they needed to work on something else. Just like a machine it has many parts that make it whole. We are in fact talking about roads and bridges that support thousands of pounds at any given minute not a couple of toothpicks being glued together.

      • Vincent DeVita

        My complaint is why don’t they close the two exits and entrances at main ave. find another way to egress or enter 81. The way it is set up is dangerous for drivers doing 65mph, and for the workers.

  • tom

    I often drive through this construction area.It is dangerous-but people need to slow down_OBEY what the signs says.We need our roads repaired-we need to be CAREFUL there.Well-also Canadian drivers & tractor trailers are nuts.

  • Steve

    It’s a shame someone died here but like Mark’s post stated, it was only a matter of time! This has got to be the worst road repair I’ve ever seen. There’s not enough signs telling thru traffic to STAY LEFT!! The road surface is terrible. The lanes are too narrow. And it really does seem like they’re just taking their good ol’ time.. Way to go Penndot, bidding it to the cheapest bidder just cost someone their life!! Prayers to the family..

  • MWM

    My sympathies for these people and their families. So sorry this happened on your visit or even if you were just passing thru. This section of road should indeed be closed or finished asap, they’re doggin it either for money, or other issues that I cannot fathom and they’re not saying. All we hear about are accidents on I-81

  • Vincent DeVita

    That exit should be shut down until it’s finished! A slight inconvenience, but a lot safer. There should be an investigation into the whole area, north bound and south bound!

  • Tom Flannery

    In El Paso, TX it only takes one or two moths to resurface two lanes that stretch one mile. So what the hell is the hold up here. We should all do an inquiry with Penndot for all of the highways, including I84 east and West (half way between 380 and Route 6), I78, Route 33, Route 309. They all have construction zones with nothing being done accept for those strips of resurfaced road done by a “drunken man”. Those strips are going to ruin my tires.

    • Warlock

      Texas is nothing like Pennsylvania, geographically speaking. Texans can barely spell “snow” let alone drive in it so I wouldn’t expect one to appreciate the science.

  • Vms

    Lackawanna county tax payers deserves safer roads AND for those who pass through!!! My heart goes out to this family. Too many preventable and tragic loss of life in this area

  • Tom Flannery

    I knew it would be a matter of time. This construction zone has been up for over a year that I know of. Every time I drive through there, no matter what day is, no one is ever working. WTF are they doing back there? Wasting tax payer dollars and waiting for an accident. What is the project time line of that construction zone? They only resurface two thin strips of pavement and it looks like it was paved by a drunk man just like the rest of PA. I don’t see everyone else is not bothered by it. I have to get an alignment with every oil change.

    • SJD

      They are fully replacing several bridges not just resurfacing some asphalt. It is a 3 yr project due to end this year. The reason you don’t see anyone is because they work behind barriers. Thank God for that or they’d all be dead too from people who can’t manage to slow down in a construction area.

      • MWM

        Thank you for informing us. However, given the fact that there might be a high accident count, and if it’s only one exit, then a detour should be imminent. At least for the trucks perhaps? It’s a pretty tight squeeze, wouldn’t take much! Speed of course is a factor in any accident, but adding road construction and trucks into the mix ups the ante. No one should be speeding anywhere. If someone wants to speed and they get what’s coming oh well, but many innocent people fall victim behind the wheel of careless drivers.

  • PARoadsAreTheWorst

    This more than likely would never have happened if the construction being done at this intersection was completed in a TIMELY MANNER. What are we on? Year 3 or 4? I lost count. This section of 81 has been a death trap waiting to happen, especially at night. I’m personally used to driving through it, however their latest “temporary” change (dividing northbound traffic into two narrow lanes) is atrocious to navigate. My condolences to all involved.

  • Mark

    This is very sad.. I knew it would be a matter of time before that area of construction would claim someone’s life.. the whole area is a mess and I hope the victims families sue penndot !!!!

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