I-81 Crash Victims from Lackawanna County Identified

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SCOTT TOWNSHIP -- As traffic slowed ahead of a construction zone on Interstate 81 north near Frackville Wednesday afternoon, a tractor-trailer rear-ended a pickup truck.  Both went up in flames.

The chain-reaction crash killed a father and son headed home to Lackawanna County: Clem Novitsky, 79, and his son Kevin Novitsky, 52. The two were headed home from an auto auction.

They are well known in Scott Township for running Village Auto Sales on Heart Lake Road near Montdale.

"They were awesome, awesome business people," said Dave Duchnik of Scott Township, owner of Duchnik's Towing.

Duchnik is also in the car business in Scott Township. Duchnik's Towing does business with the Novitsky family. They share a career and now a sense of loss.

Dave and his son, David Jr., were on Interstate 81 in Lackawanna County last August helping to tow a car when a tractor trailer hit David.  He died a few days later.

"The community has just taken so much of a loss this past year, between now the Novitsky family and my family. I feel the pain for them because what they're going to go through, you never imagine what it's like until it happens to yourself," Duchnik said.

This latest tragedy that killed Clem and Kevin Novitsky, he says, is another reminder of the highway's dangers hitting close to home.

"These interstates are so dangerous and people got to learn to slow down. Move over when you're coming into construction sites or you see vehicles," Duchnik added.

The tractor trailer driver who hit Clem and Kevin Novitsky was not hurt in Wednesday's crash.  Another driver involved in the chain reaction, Brian Ketcham of Hop Bottom, was flown to a hospital with serious injuries.


  • Frank

    Another deadly accident on our highways, the roads are too congested, we need to bring the trains back. The trucking industry is so stong, it may be impossible to do. The section of Interstate 81 from Lackawanna to Luzerne county is way overcrowded. Why can’t PENNDOT and the TURNPIKE COMMISION get together and open 476 up to local traffic and do away with the over priced toll to use the section.Bearcreek to Dupont to Taylor to Clarks Summit must cost 4 dollars to use. Way to high for most people.

    • Rich kid

      $4, way too high for most people? Really? Maybe they could skip a pack of cigarettes, a case of beer, or one less tattoo if money is that tight. Maybe they could sell that Harley-Davidson they can’t afford anyhow.

  • Cledus Snowman Snow

    You can argue about this all day but the facts speak for themselves. There are hundreds maybe thousands of people who die each year due to larger vehicles or trucks coming up on cars and they are unable to stop in time. Hard to prove negligence on the car driver if he’s slowed down or stopped and gets hit from behind.

  • arlene

    Is the truck driver who caused the crash being charge with involuntary manslaughter? How about a report on possible criminal charges? The reporter didnt even mention it.

    • Don't do it

      Without them you wouldn’t have clothes or anything else in current times . That being said lots of operators of these trucks are driving heads up arse . Rip …

    • Axia

      I have never had a truck drive right up my a**. Do you get passed by them on the roads? If so, you drive too slow for conditions and you’re a road hazard.

    • Mad Dog

      Sooooo do any of you know the official details of the crash? Or are you playing Internet court again? Let the authorities do their jobs.

      • DJB

        ASD (commented below)—What do you live in the 1950s or 1960s??? Trucks are slow? They are now running with 300-600 HP engines and are capable of speeds unheard of 30 or 40 years ago and move along at an amazing clip with 80,000 lbs pushing behind them. To Maria’s point below, I agree—they do drive way more aggressively than in years past and I, too, have experienced truck drivers barreling down on me–and trust me, I am no slow driver. On I-81 with limited berms and smaller lanes, this is not a good recipe and leaves little in terms of safety zones to avoid a collision from behind. Look, I grew up riding in 18-wheelers. My Dad, Uncle, and Brother were OTR truckers and I have spent many hours riding shotgun. But today’s trucking has changed a lot and scheduling and dispatch demands are far greater than days gone by. To be sure, the overwhelming majority are professional and courteous, but there are a large number of drivers who are exceeding their log-book time, driving exhausted, and worse—driving under the influence. If you look at the footage of this story and moreso, the original story, it appears that the victims were caught in the middle, so the nonsense comments above about left lane dawdling are unfounded. How else do you explain the 18-wheeler stopped at the front of the accident? The victims were rear-ended and pinned between so the comments about slow driving and hanging in the left lane are ridiculous. This whole story is horrendous on all fronts. I’ve known these men for decades and they travel this section of interstate probably every week returning from the auction. They were honrable men from a wonderful family and they deserve respect—as does their family who might be reading these ridiculous comments. Yes, of course we all know that trucking is the lifeline for our way of life as most all goods are delivered through this supply chain. But is it too much to ask to demand more responsible driving from what are supposed to be professionals who take up a lot of space on our already overcrowded highways? Put yourselves in the shoes of the Novitsky family—two family members dead; innocent men also out working for a living. Wouldn’t you, too, the obvious truckers who commented above, hope for the same for yourselves as you expect to return home to those who love you? So, so saddening. Prayers for the Novitskys. RIP Clemmie and Kevin and prayers to Pat and the rest of the family. You’ll all be in our thoughts and prayers.

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