Homicide charges filed after crash



Wyoming County Press Examiner

A 34-year-old Tunkhannock man has been charged with homicide by vehicle after a Thanksgiving eve crash in Eaton Township turned deadly.

Clayton Drew Firth, 34, was driving home last Wednesday night on Keelersburg Road about two and a half miles from his residence on the same street when his white Chevrolet pickup truck failed to negotiate a turn and crashed into a tree at 11:57 p.m.

Both Firth and passenger Trenadie Leibenguth, 29, of Evanston, Wyo., were treated at the scene, and transported to Tyler Memorial Hospital.

Leibenguth was later transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley, where she was pronounced dead from injuries sustained in the crash by attending physician Dr. James Benkinney at 1:57 a.m., Thanksgiving Day, according to Luzerne County Deputy Coroner Robert Jastremski.

According to court documents, Firth told police he had picked Leibenguth, his girlfriend, up at the Philadelphia Airport the previous day, and when he got home from work Wednesday around 4 p.m., the two drank a few beers before heading out for dinner and then to a local Tunkhannock bar.

Firth admitted to police that while at the bar he and his girlfriend had been drinking heavily and also shot some pool. He acknowledged having consumed Crown Royal whiskey before leaving the bar after 10 p.m.

According to a police complaint, Tpr. Michael Maguire was on the scene shortly after the accident, and noted that Firth was out of his vehicle and had an injury to his arm that was bleeding, which he said EMS would be there to treat.

Tpr. Maguire’s report said he detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from Firth’s breath and that he also had glossy, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.

Maguire noted he asked, and Firth consented at the scene, to have a Preliminary Breath Test, and, according to the complaint, the test showed a blood alcohol level of .15 percent.

The legal limit for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania is .08 percent.

Firth also consented to a blood draw later at Tyler hospital, but those results were not stated.

According to the complaint, “Firth related his first mistake tonight was to be drinking. Second, was just driving too fast and not paying attention, and finally driving with bald tires. Firth went further on to explain that he took the curve too fast and attempted to correct it but couldn’t do it and crashed. Firth related he shouldn’t have been driving tonight.”

The formal charges against Firth are homicide by vehicle while under the influence, homicide by vehicle, DUI-first offense, involuntary manslaughter, disregarding traffic lane, driving at a safe speed, careless driving and failure to use safety belt.

Leibenguth also was not wearing a safety belt.

Firth was arraigned Friday afternoon before Magisterial District Judge David Plummer in Factoryville and remanded to the Wyoming County Correctional Facility in lieu of $75,000 bail.

He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Carl Smith in Tunkhannock on Wednesday.