Investigation finds the death of Gregory A. Longenecker to be accidental.
District Attorney, John T. Adams, has determined that the death of Gregory Longenecker on July 9, 2018, in a field adjacent to the Snyder School Road, Penn Township, was accidental.
On July 9, 2018, at approximately 10:18 a.m., an employee with the PA Game Commission's southeast region was using a bulldozer to clear heavy brush on state game lands. The employee noticed an unoccupied vehicle parked in the field, in an area where vehicles were not permitted. Subsequently, the employee notified Bernville Police Chief Brian Thumm.
At approximately 10:50 a.m., Chief Thumm arrived at the scene to investigate the complaint. During the investigation, Chief Thumm and the employee searched the area for the owner/occupants of the vehicle. Their search led to a small opening in the heavy brush, which was in close proximity to the unoccupied vehicle. The opening was the entrance to a small path. This path led to a small clearing, with several marijuana plants surrounded by a chicken wire fence. Additionally, two male suspects were found. One of the suspects was immediately apprehended and the other fled further into the thick brush. The apprehended suspect was identified as David Light. The fleeing suspect was later identified as Gregory A. Longenecker. Subsequently, Chief Thumm radioed for assistance.
Members of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and Lower Heidelberg Township Police Department assisted in the search for Longenecker. Police utilized the PSP helicopter and the State Game Commission's Bulldozer.
During the search, troopers located and called to Longenecker over the helicopter's loudspeaker, but he did not respond. When they lost sight of him in the brush, troopers in the helicopter relayed his last known location.
A trooper and the Game Commission employee used the bulldozer to travel through the thick brush in a slow methodical indirect path towards the suspect. The brush was too dense to walk through.
The bulldozer was driven to a spot a few feet to the left side where the helicopter last located Longenecker. The bulldozer stopped for approximately 30 to 45 seconds. Then, the bulldozer moved forward approximately ten more feet while turning left in a 45 degree angle and stopped. As the trooper and driver got off the bulldozer, they discovered Longenecker's body entrapped under the bulldozer and he was unresponsive. They assessed him for any life saving measures, however, they were unable to obtain any vital signs.
The Berks County Coroner's Office was contacted and Deputy Melissa Spuhler responded to the scene. At 3:04 p.m., she pronounced Longenecker deceased.
Pursuant to DA Adams' protocol in death investigations involving police officers, Berks County Detectives were assigned as the independent agency to investigate this incident jointly with the Pennsylvania State Police.
As a result of the thorough investigation, investigators believed the deceased attempted to allude apprehension and intentionally crawled under the bulldozer when it came to a brief 30 second stop. This was undetected by the troopers. When the bulldozer resumed its travels moving left approximately ten more feet in a 45 degree angle, Longenecker became caught under the treads and tragically succumbed to injuries.
On July 10, 2018, an autopsy was held at Reading Hospital and performed by Forensic Pathologist Neil Hoffman.
On August 23, 2018, Dr. Hoffman issued an autopsy report. In the report, Dr. Hoffman stated:
"The findings are consistent with the decedent placing himself in between the treads of the bulldozer then becoming caught under the treads as the bulldozer made a turn toward the left. The decedent was under the influence of methadone, amphetamine, and cannabinoid at the time of his death. The levels of methadone and methamphetamine are in the toxic level. The decedent's judgement, perception and coordination would have been considerably impaired at the time of his death due to this intoxication."
On August 24, 2018, the Berks County Deputy Coroner issued the final death certificate, ruling an accidental death.
District Attorney, John T. Adams, recognizes the sanctity of life above all other values. "It is unfortunate that a life was lost and our condolences go out to the Longenecker family. However, I support the actions of the Pennsylvania State Police. Their efforts were reasonable and conducted in a safe manner."