Update: Abington Deputy Chief Confirms Scoutmaster Killed by Township-Operated Backhoe
Tom Smerke, former Scoutmaster of Boy Scouts of America, Troop 72, Overlook Hills, dies following an incident Thursday near his home.
Abington Police Deputy Chief John Livingood said during an early-evening phone call today that Tom Smerke, a former Scoutmaster of Troop 72, out of Roychester Park, died as the result of injuries sustained during a July 12 construction vehicle incident; Livingood said Smerke died at Abington Memorial Hospital the following day.
“A township backhoe, doing a street repaving project in the area, being used to remove old millings by putting them in a dump truck — it appears that the backhoe accidentally backed over the victim,” Livingood said. “He didn’t die until the next day.”
The township employee is not being charged criminally, though Abington Police are still determining exactly what happened, Livingood said.
The incident happened just blocks from Smerke’s home.
John Capps, who has had four of his sons go through the Scouting program at Roychester Park starting in 1989 said the incident happened at the corner of Lycoming and Parkview avenues.
“There was a frontend loader doing storm drain work in the neighborhood,” Capps said. “It was only blocks from [Smerke’s] home.”
Capps added that Smerke, of Allen Lane, had vision problems, including glaucoma, and only had one of his eyes.
Capps spoke very highly of Smerke.
“Geez, let me put this way, Tom was probably the most dedicated person I’ve known in whole my whole life — no one was more dedicated. Scouts was his life. He never married."
Though his vision was bad, Capps said Smerke stayed involved with Troop 72.
“He was involved on the outside,” Capps said. “It wasn’t uncommon for Tom to be working with Scouts on their Eagle Projects — he was always giving guidance.”
Another resident said, "[Smerke], while Scoutmaster at Troop 72, was responsible for helping more than 150 Scouts achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. Everyday, although almost totally blind, he would walk to the [Roychester] Community House to put up and take down the American flag."
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