Woman admits to drinking alcohol before I-76 crash that killed firefighter: Affidavit

Firefighter Thomas Royds was killed in a serious crash on I-76 in Lower Merion Township.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Firefighter on scene of DUI crash killed by drunk driver: Authorities
Authorities say a South Jersey woman admitted to drinking mixed alcoholic beverages before a crash that killed a Montgomery County firefighter, according to an arrest affidavit.

LOWER MERION TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Authorities say a South Jersey woman admitted to drinking mixed alcoholic beverages and driving around before a crash that killed a firefighter and injured several other first responders early Saturday morning, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Action News.

Jacquelyn Walker, 63, of Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, is facing vehicular homicide charges in connection with a crash that killed firefighter Thomas Royds on Interstate 76 in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania.

Police say a Pennsylvania State Police trooper and fire crews from Belmont Hills Fire Company and Gladwyne Fire Company responded to a DUI crash around 3:15 a.m. in the westbound lanes of the Schuylkill Expressway near Waverly Road.

SEE ALSO: What is Pennsylvania's Move Over Law?

Sometime after first responders arrived at the scene, authorities say Walker drove her Jeep Grand Cherokee up on the right shoulder of the highway and crashed into Royds, two other firefighters and a state police trooper before colliding with a vehicle involved in the initial crash.

Jacquelyn Walker

Royds, with the Belmont Hills Fire Company, was taken by ambulance to Paoli Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries, according to police.

The trooper and two firefighters were taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center by medical helicopters and ground ambulance with severe injuries.

SEE ALSO: Firefighter killed in I-76 crash identified; other first responders injured

Authorities say a South Jersey woman admitted to drinking mixed alcoholic beverages before a crash that killed a firefighter and injured several other first responders, according to an arrest affidavit.

According to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by Action News, Walker had exited her vehicle and was seen leaning on the Jeep with her hands on her face and "clearly shaken." She kept repeating "Oh my God."

According to authorities, Walker had glassy and bloodshot eyes and officers detected an odor of alcohol on her breath. They say her voice was slurred as she talked.

Troopers say she then was seen pouring alcohol out of a cup onto the road. She was taken into custody and gave consent to draw blood.

Authorities found an opened bottle of rum between the front and back seats of her vehicle, the documents say.

According to the affidavit, Walker admitted to drinking mixed alcoholic beverages behind the wheel before the crash.

Walker told authorities she had driven to the Quaker Bridge Mall earlier that day for a 4 p.m. appointment at the Apple Store. She told authorities, according to the affidavit, that she got lost on her way home and stopped at a couple of places for directions. She told police she was on I-295 when she got off the road to get a soda.

The career firefighter worked at Friel Landscaping part-time and at the Union Fire Company full-time.

According to the documents, Walker said she had thought about getting a room, but couldn't find one so she continued to drive around. She allegedly told police she believed she was still on I-295 at the time of the crash.

She recalled, according to the affidavit, seeing the ambulance and said she just "went straight and when I looked up at the last second, I saw five state troopers and men that work on the streets."

Police say Walker told them she knew she hit someone. She allegedly said she hit the brakes, but they didn't work.

According to the affidavit, Walker said she had stopped at a liquor store to get some rum. She opened the rum in the car and poured around 3 oz. into the soda she had purchased earlier, the documents say.

The documents say she admitted she was drinking it while driving around. She also admitted, authorities say, to pouring out the alcohol.

Tyre Malik McCall, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and Cole Henry Strempel, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were also taken into custody at the scene and charged with DUI in reference to the original crash.

On Sunday, the Montgomery County community gathered to honor Royds.

One firefighter was killed and other first responders were injured early Saturday in a serious crash on Interstate 76 in Lower Merion Township.

Fellow firefighters and others in the community paid their respects as Royds' body was transported from the hospital to the Montgomery County Coroner's Office.

"You don't want to see anybody get killed in the line of duty or anything like that," said retired volunteer firefighter Bill Stebbins.

Royds also volunteered at Clifton Heights and was a paid firefighter at Union Fire Association. His grandfather was one of the founding members of Belmont Hills Fire Company.

Chief James Hornung with the Union Fire Association called the death of his fellow firefighter a "tragedy" but vowed to carry on his legacy.

"Today during the processions that we had, there were several locations, and quite a number of locations, where they had the ladder arches up with the American flag hanging. Not that Tom loved funerals, but Tom loved to know that at a funeral, the flag was hanging the way it should be and that it was done well. He took a lot of pride in that," said Chief Hornung. "I sent an email to my firefighters tonight that it was really time for us to pick up that torch and carry that legacy and service on."

Belmont Hills is under the umbrella of Lower Merion Fire Department, which lost another member in July. Firefighter Sean DeMuynck died July 4 from injuries sustained while fighting a fire.

One firefighter was killed and other first responders were injured early Saturday in a serious crash on Interstate 76 in Lower Merion Township.

"Once again, we are mourning the loss of one of our own. A young man taken too soon," said Chief Chas McGarvey with the Lower Merion Fire Department.

Royd's death is a loss that cuts deep for the tight-knit neighborhood.

"Tommy always had a smile on his face all the time. He's always the first one to give you a hand," said neighbor Bob Coleman.

Multiple employees from Friel Landscaping where he worked part-time drove past the Union Fire Association on Monday morning.

In addition to vehicular homicide, Walker is also facing a slew of other charges including involuntary manslaughter and DUI. She is currently being held behind bars on $500,000 bail.

The Move Over Law in Pennsylvania requires drivers approaching an emergency response area who are unable to safely merge into a lane farther away from the response area to "pass the emergency response area at a speed of no more than 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit and reasonable for safely passing."

According to AAA, a roadside worker is killed on the job almost every two weeks across the country.

Every state has a law requiring drivers to slow down and, when possible, move over when flashing lights are seen at the roadside.

The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office released this statement on Monday regarding the investigation:

"On Saturday, after the early morning crash on I-76, the driver Jacquelyn Walker was charged with multiple criminal offenses, including Homicide by Vehicle and three counts of Aggravated Assault for the death and injuries sustained by first responders. However, this investigation is not over. The Pennsylvania State Police and Montgomery County Detectives are awaiting the result of laboratory testing and medical examinations as well as continuing to examine the crash, on-scene data, the vehicle and what occurred prior to the crash. We will seek justice for all of the victims of this terrible crash that sadly will have a lasting impact on the families of the first responders, the Lower Merion firefighting community and many others."