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Man sentenced to prison in crash that killed tow-truck operator in Berks

A man who was under the influence of drugs when he crashed into a tow-truck operator on an assistance call along a Berks County interstate has been sentenced to prison.

Allen E. Putman, 31, of Johnstown, Cambria County, pleaded guilty Wednesday before Berks Judge James Lillis to charges of homicide by vehicle, DUI and endangering the welfare of children in the July 21, 2020, crash along Interstate 78 in Bethel Township.

Lillis sentenced Putman to a total of two to seven years in state prison followed by three years of probation in a negotiated plea with prosecutors. Putman was also ordered to pay $5,956 in restitution.

Blood tests taken after the crash showed Putman had marijuana and oxycodone in his system, state police said.

Putman had been free on bail since two days after his arrest in November 2020, but was committed to prison Wednesday.

Tyler A. Laudenslager, 29, of Halifax, Dauphin County, was killed in the crash. His death helped spark legislation to increase penalties for drivers who do not pull into a different lane at an emergency response area.

State police at Hamburg previously gave this account of the crash:

Putman was westbound on I-78 about 6:15 p.m. when his vehicle rear-ended a tractor-trailer, then veered across the highway and struck Laudenslager as he was standing along the interstate. Putman’s vehicle then struck the tow truck before coming to a rest a short distance away.

Laudenslager had been actively involved in a roadside assistance call when the crash occurred. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Putman suffered a concussion and a hip injury, while his three passengers — which included a 9-year-old — suffered injuries ranging from moderate to severe, though none was life threatening.

The tractor-trailer driver, Adeel Mazhar of Bethlehem, was not hurt.

The investigation showed Putman was driving 90 mph and had not braked when he struck Mazhar’s rig, which had slowed for traffic.

Putman’s car was still going 60 mph when it hit Laudenslager.

The interstate was closed for more than five hours.

Dozens of emergency responders are killed or injured by vehicles every year, with 44 deaths logged nationally in 2019, according to the Emergency Responder Safety Institute.

On Oct. 29, 2020, Gov. Tom Wolf signed the new law that increased the penalties under the state’s Steer Clear law, which requires motorists to move over to an adjacent lane at an emergency response area, and if that is not possible, to slow down to a speed of no more than 20 mph less than the posted speed limit.

The measure, a rebranding of the 2006 law, was passed by the Legislature in response to an increase in fatal accidents at emergency response scenes.

Motorists are fined $500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second offense and $2,000 for the third offense.

Source: Berkshire mont

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