In two tragedies during the past year that took the lives of first responders in our region, public servants were getting others out of harm’s way when they were killed. In both cases, the victims were struck by drivers now facing drunk driving charges.
Firefighter Thomas Royds of Springfield in Delaware County was at a crash scene on Interstate 76 in Lower Merion last July 24, assisting as a volunteer firefighter with the Belmont Hills Fire Company when he died after being struck.
Royds pushed other firefighters out of the way moments before he was struck by an out-of-control Jeep driven by Jacquelyn Walker, 63, who was later charged and is awaiting trial on homicide by vehicle charges.
Royds was injured in the collision and died that night despite the valiant efforts of fellow first responders who rushed him to Paoli Trauma Center. He died in the hospital from the blunt force trauma suffered in the crash. Two other Belmont Hills firefighters and a Pennsylvania State Trooper were also injured. One of them recalled being shoved out of the way by Royds as the careening car approached.
In another tragedy earlier this week, two state police troopers were killed while helping a pedestrian out of harm’s way as he was walking on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia.
State Troopers Martin F. Mack III, 33, and Branden T. Sisca, 29, were killed along with the pedestrian they were assisting, Reyes Rivera Oliveras, 28, of Allentown, according to state police. Jayana Tanae Webb, 21, of Eagleville, has been charged with three counts of third-degree murder and drunken driving and is being held without bail after her vehicle slammed into the officers’ cruiser, hitting all three individuals who were alongside it.
Both troopers were dedicated to community service, even beyond their police work. Sisca was chief of the Trappe Fire Company and the son of Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Craig Sisca. He and his wife Brittany were expecting their first child.
A 2014 graduate of West Chester University, Sisca had served the volunteer fire company as treasurer, lieutenant, captain, battalion chief and deputy chief before assuming the top leadership position of fire chief.
The Trappe Fire Company on Wednesday changed its Facebook profile picture to a tribute of Sisca as a “trooper, fire chief, husband, and friend.”
“It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that Trappe Fire Company No.1 announces the passing of Fire Chief Branden Sisca,” the fire company said on Facebook.
Mack, of Bucks County, was married with two children. He graduated from Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School in 2006 and graduated from Albright College in 2011. He was an assistant lacrosse coach at Harry S. Truman High School in Bristol Township and was known for his selfless work with others.
Todd Liess, Pennsylvania Turnpike traffic incident management coordinator, said there have been 18 fatalities this year of emergency responders being killed on roadways while doing their jobs. Since 2019, 136 first responders have been struck and killed while at an emergency scene or assisting the driver of a disabled vehicle. This sobering statistic, which includes five deaths on Pennsylvania highways during that same three-year period, helped inspire the state to strengthen its Move Over Law to increase penalties for motorists who fail to comply with the regulation.
The Move Over Law, enacted in Pennsylvania as Act 105 of 2020 requires drivers approaching an emergency response area to move over to a lane further away. Drivers who are unable to safely merge into a lane further away from the emergency response area are required to slow to no more than 20 miles-per-hour below the posted speed limit.
However, both of these close-to-home tragedies in the past year have involved drivers alleged to be driving under the influence of alcohol and driving out of control on high-speed highways. In the best of circumstances with safe and sober driving, moving over is a reasonable expectation. In the worst, heroes are killed without the chance to find safety.
“Heroes” is indeed the appropriate work for firefighter Royds and Troopers Mack and Sisca. We honor their actions and offer our deepest condolences for the families they leave behind. Our world was the better for their brief time among us. RIP
Source: Berkshire mont