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1 dead, 17 hurt when driver hits a crowd at benefit for families of 10 killed in Pa. house fire

NBC News logo NBC News 8/14/2022 Dennis Romero and Joe Studley
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One person is dead and 17 others were injured when a vehicle struck a crowd of people in Berwick, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, authorities said.

"A vehicle drove through a community event," state Trooper Anthony Petroski said Saturday night.

After the crash, the suspect is thought to have fatally attacked a woman in neighboring Luzerne County, he said.

"The male suspect in both incidents is in custody," the trooper said. His identity was being withheld.

Police have not released the identities of the two people killed or any of the 17 injured, who were taken to several area hospitals.

Geisinger Medical Center, in nearby Danville, received 13 patients by mid-evening, spokesperson Natalie Buyny said by email. Conditions of the injured were not available.

"Staff is assessing and triaging patients for appropriate care," Buyny said.

NBC affiliate WBRE of Wilkes-Barre reported that a vehicle struck multiple people who were attending a benefit in the borough of Berwick.

The crowds had gathered to raise funds for the families of the three children and seven adults who died in an early morning house fire Aug. 5 in neighboring Nescopeck.

Shortly after the crash, state police were called about a man physically assaulting a female in Nescopeck, where he was taken into custody by municipal police, Petroski said.

Saturday's benefit was being held at the Intoxicology Department bar and restaurant. People had also gathered in an adjacent outdoor space, where various vendors and a basket raffle were set up under tents. The benefit also included a water balloon fight and a dunk tank, according to the bar's social media.

"We can never replace these people that were lost, but we can do our best" to support family, bar owner Lauren Hess told NBC affiliate WBRE of Wilkes-Barre at the benefit Saturday.

On Saturday night, the bar posted on Facebook that it would be closed until further notice.

"Today was an absolute tragedy," the post said. "Please respect our privacy while we grieve and try to process the events that occurred."

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The investigation into the Aug. 5 blaze is ongoing, and Pennsylvania State Police have called the case a “complex criminal investigation," WBRE reported.

The fire broke out before 3 a.m and first responders reported flames that repelled their efforts to get inside the two story home and make rescues, authorities said later that day.

The home was burned to the ground, and remains were discovered as authorities went through the rubble.

The deceased included seven adults ranging in age from 19 to 79, two boys ages 5 and 6, and a 7-year-old girl, according to Pennsylvania State Police.

Asked if the suspect in Saturday's incidents was also a possible suspect in the Nescopeck fire, Petroski said, "At this time he is not a suspect in that incident."

Nescopeck is a borough of more than 1,600 people about 48 miles southwest of Scranton.

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