Excerpts and summaries of news stories from the former Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster New Era and Sunday News that focus on the events in the county’s past that are noteworthy, newsworthy or just strange.
Dec. 15, 1994, was a big day for the Lancaster County Drug Task Force.
City police and the task force planned and executed the second-largest drug raid in the county’s history. Police targeted 76 dealers with warrants served at dawn. Forty-five suspects were in custody by noon.
The raid was the largest ever undertaken by the Drug Task Force itself, and overall it was second only to a raid in the 1970s that nabbed 100 dealers.
District Attorney Joseph Madenspacher announced the in-progress raid at a 10 a.m. press conference. He called it a “street sweeping” exercise that would remove the most visible dealers so that Lancaster could have a more pleasant Christmas.
Madenspacher and detective Craig Wolf defended their focus on street-level dealers, citing the large quantity of drugs that those dealers handled.
As part of the same press conference, city police Chief Michael Landis and Mayor Janice Stork asked residents to assist them in their work. Landis said it takes time and information to build cases. Stork agreed and pleaded with the public: “We need to hear from people.”
With the day’s arrest, the police and the task force tallied more than 400 drug-related arrests for the year.
A Yuletide visit to Masonic Home in Elizabethtown turned into a tragic nightmare for a group of Philadelphia women.
The 40 women, as well as a few of their husbands and a 60-year-old bus driver were minutes away from a rest stop and lunch when the bus hit a patch of ice on Gap Hill. The vehicle skidded, crashed into a utility pole, shearing it off, then slipped down a four-foot embankment and overturned.
Seven women died in the crash and 34 more people were hurt including the driver, Herbert Whyte.
Police, fire companies, medical personnel and volunteers flooded the area. Victims had to be extricated through the shattered glass of broken windows.
The earliest responders found an injured Whyte doing just that.
Weary responders later found two additional victims underneath the bus when wreckers from Lancaster and Coatesville pulled the bus onto its wheels.
The women had been thrown out of the bus and crushed beneath it when it flipped.
The accident was described as “the worst single highway accident in recent years” in Lancaster County.
Many Lancastrians make their winter homes in Florida. The reasons are obvious. Lancaster can have some brutal winter weather.
That fact wasn’t stopping veteran circus performer Capt. J. G. Irwin from “over-wintering” in Lancaster, along with his highly trained circus animals. Irwin, his dogs, monkeys, mule and pony would spend the winter at the Lancaster Fairgrounds.
Irwin’s animal training skills were legendary. His circus formerly included lions and leopards, but Irwin lost a hand during the filming of a “jungle” scene. The lions were frightened by the collapse of the flimsy hut they in which they were filming, and the panicked animals “tore off his hand.”
While the troupe planned to rest during their stay, “Cappy” said he would be willing to put on shows for Christmas parties and children’s entertainment.
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