Motorist Who Plowed Into Ambulance Gets 6 Months
WILKES-BARRE — The driver who plowed head-on into an ambulance while high on marijuana earlier this year in Laflin will spend up to six months in jail for causing the crash that injured two crew members.
Lawrence Vanburen-Morgan, 30, pleaded guilty last month in connection with the crash on Route 315 involving a Greater Pittston Regional Ambulance.
Two ambulance association personnel, paramedic Emmett Thomas, of Kingston, and driver Michael Ankenband, of Shavertown, were injured in the wreck. Thomas was initially knocked unconscious.
Both testified in court Thursday at Vanburen-Morgan’s sentencing before Luzerne County Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. Sklarosky sentenced him to 72 hours to six months in prison. He has to report to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility this morning.
Ankenband said he and Thomas are still traumatized by the crash.
“There is only one word to describe it. Violent,” Ankenband said. “I can’t forget it.”
Thomas told the court he experiences sleepless nights.
“I have a lot of anger, sadness,” he said.
An 87-year-old hospice patient who was being transported in the ambulance died a week after the crash, but an autopsy determined her death was unrelated and due to natural causes.
Vanburen-Morgan previously pleaded guilty to first-offense driving under the influence of a controlled substance, two counts of accidents involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed and driving with a suspended license.
Assistant District Attorney Angela Sperrazza said a “telling” thing about the case was if Vanburen-Morgan had driven off the road and crashed in a one-car wreck, people like Thomas and Ankenband would be the ones coming to his rescue.
Instead, they became his victims, she said. So did their patient, Margaret Josephine Milewski, Sperrazza noted.
“He rendered them incapable of helping that woman,” she said.
Sklarosky said he thought Vanburen-Morgan should have faced more severe charges.
“It almost seems to this court there should be more serious charges, but they are what they are,” Sklarosky said.
Vanburen-Morgan, who lived in Nanticoke at the time of the crash and later moved to Plains Twp., apologized to the victims in court. He claimed he doesn’t remember anything about that day following a relative’s funeral.
“My intentions were never to hurt anyone,” Vanburen-Morgan said.
He said he talked to his grandmother as sentencing day loomed and she gave him advice.
“She said, ‘Own up to your actions and be a man about it.’ That’s what I am doing,” he said.
The crash took place the evening of Jan. 18, just south of the intersection in front of the Oblates of St. Joseph Seminary.
According to police, Vanburen-Morgan’s Toyota Sienna had been northbound on Route 315 while the ambulance was heading south in the far right lane. Vanburen-Morgan swerved into the southbound lane and hit the ambulance head-on.
Investigators at the scene noted Vanburen-Morgan’s car smelled of marijuana smoke, police said. Vanburen-Morgan told troopers he “wasn’t smoking marijuana in the car” and said he didn’t remember when he had last smoked pot, troopers said in arrest papers.
Vanburen-Morgan refused to provide a blood sample for testing, but troopers got a search warrant for his urine and medical records, which revealed he was under the influence of marijuana at the time, troopers said.
Contact the writer: