Bernville, PA – A man who was accidentally killed by a bulldozer as he tried to hide from police may have been in the area to tend to an illegal marijuana grow operation.
The incident began at about 11 a.m. on Monday, when a Pennsylvania Game Commission maintenance employee was using the bulldozer to clear an area of thick, dense brush on a remote section of state game land and spotted a vehicle parked well off the roadway in a field, The Patriot-News reported.
The employee then stumbled upon the marijuana plants, WFMZ reported.
"The location itself is very remote, as far as traffic," Pennsylvania State Police Trooper David Beohm explained.
The employee called police, who arrived just as two men came walking out of the thick underbrush, The Patriot-News reported.
When the men spotted the officers, they immediately took off on foot, WHTM reported.
"They were back there doing whatever they have to do to their plants," Trooper Beohm told Lehigh Valley Live. "It was kind of carved out of the underbrush, which I've never seen underbrush that thick ever. It was crazy how thick it was."
Police apprehended one of the men, identified as 54-year-old David Light, but the second individual ran into the heavily wooded area.
In the hours that ensued, officers scoured the area on foot, while a state police helicopter searched from above, WPVI reported.
A Game Commission worker used the bulldozer to clear a path into the dense underbrush, while a trooper rode along to keep an eye out for the suspect, WFMZ reported.
The helicopter briefly located the man, but lost sight of him as they attempted to give the bulldozer operator directions to his last location, The Patriot-News reported.
"As they're blazing a trail through the brush, the trooper tells the operator to stop. They look behind the bulldozer and they saw the male that they were looking for was laying on the ground behind the bulldozer as they had already gone over that area," Trooper Boehm told WHTM. “I'm telling you, it's so thick up there, there's no way - there's no way you could see somebody laying there.”
The suspect, later identified as 51-year-old Gregory Longenecker, died at the scene.
His death was determined to be accidental, Lehigh Valley Live reported.
Berks County District Attorney John Adams said that his office will conduct a full investigation into the incident, according to WFMZ.
Police said that the marijuana plants were found in an enclosed chicken-wire fence. They also found pruning shears, water bottles, starter plants, liquid fertilizer, and a bucket of pruned marijuana leaves at the site.
Light’s wife, Beverly Light, said that the two men were best friends, and that her husband went to the remote area to pick Longenecker up, Lehigh Valley Live reported.
She denied allegations that her husband was responsible for the illegal marijuana grow.
“He’s an innocent man,” Beverly said.
But court documents showed that Light had admitted to police that he had gone to the location to prune the plants, according to court documents.
He has been charged with felony counts of conspiracy to possess drugs with intent to deliver and drug possession with intent to deliver, as well as the lesser offenses of possession of a small amount of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, drug possession, and criminal trespass, Lehigh Valley Live reported.
He was released from jail on $25,000 unsecured bond, and is due back in court on July 18.