Watch CBS News

Ligonier Officer Killed In Crash Leaves Behind A Big Void In Community

LIGONIER (KDKA) – A local police officer, who lost his life in a crash Tuesday morning, will be sorely missed in the community.

Ligonier Police Lt. Eric Eslary died in the early morning hours of Tuesday in a head-on collision with a wrong way driver.

The accident happened on Route 30, near Idlewild Park. A van traveling the wrong way hit Lt. Eslary's SUV head-on. He was transported to a local hospital, where he later died. Officials say he died of blunt force injuries to the head, chest and extremities.

Eslary's K-9 partner, Blek, was in the vehicle and was taken to a local veterinarian for treatment.

Ligonier Township Police Chief Michael Matrunics sent officers home Tuesday night to give them time to deal with Lt. Eslary's death. State Police patrolled the area.

Meanwhile, people have been stopping by a memorial in front of the Wilpen Fire Department, where Eslary volunteered. His boots, hat and gear are on a bench outside the fire hall. A light shines on the memorial.

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Chris Kunicki)

Lt. Eslary had created a fundraiser for the fire department scheduled for this Saturday night, a gun bash. The chief wants people to know that the fundraiser has now been postponed to May 30.

During a press conference Tuesday morning, Chief Matrunics spoke highly of his friend's contributions in the community.

In addition to being a member of the Wilpin Volunteer Fire Department, Eslary was also a member of the local Masonic chapter. Additionally, he volunteered with various youth sports associations in the county.

He was also an instrumental part of the Westmoreland County Drug Task Force.

"He was vital to providing drug-resistant education to local schools as well as countless civic organizations throughout Westmoreland County," Chief Matrunics said.

He played a significant role in advancing the township's K-9 program and aided other departments across the state.

"In this community, as far as the K-9 program, I never thought it would flourish the way it has. The only way that could have been done is because of Eric," Chief Matrunics said.

Eslary was the only K-9 handler in Ligonier Township.

Watch The Full Police Press Conference:

Ligonier Borough Police Chief John Berger was emotional while reflecting on the life of his friend as well.

"We'd go up to the Covenant Pre-School and we would read a book. You never wanted to read after Eric had the dog there. You just couldn't top that dog," Chief Berger said. "It's going to be a long couple of days, but this community will come together as it always does and we will get through it together."

Eslary was sworn in as a patrolman in 1998 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2009.

Lt. Eslary will be laid to rest on Saturday. Visitation has been scheduled for Thursday and Friday at the McCracken Funeral Chapel in Ligonier from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. His funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, also in Ligonier.

Rev. Dr. J. Paul McCracken owns the funeral home in town and is handling the arrangements.

"I have the privilege of marrying him and his wife and their home about four years ago," McCracken said.

McCracken knew Eslary for more than 30 years. He calls him an all-American boy who ate drank and slept police work. Eslary and his wife had six children, three boys and three girls, but he always had time to give back to his community.

"If Eric doesn't make it to heaven, there's no chance for the rest of us," McCracken said.

The Ligonier Township Police Department says donations are being accepted for Lt. Eslary's family at the following locations:

Washington Financial
C/O Eric Eslary
3616 Washington Road
McMurray, PA 15317

Western Pennsylvania Police Benevolent Foundation
337 Winners Circle
Canonsburg, PA 15317

Stay With For More Details

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.