Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters.
HARRISBURG — Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Gerow was involved in a crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Chester County this week that killed a motorcyclist and shut down the highway for nearly seven hours, according to law enforcement and other officials.
Kevin Harley, a spokesperson for Gerow, confirmed that Gerow was the driver and said he is now “cooperating fully with the investigation and will continue to do so.”
“He looks forward to the State Police completing their investigations and is confident that the investigation will confirm that he was not the cause of the accident,” Harley wrote in an email. “He has been advised that he should not discuss the matter further until the investigation has been completed.”
Pennsylvania State Police are investigating the crash, which occurred shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday on the portion of the turnpike that runs through Tredyffrin Township, authorities said.
A State Police report on the incident made public Thursday does not name Gerow. It says only that the crash involved a Honda motorcycle and a Mercedes Benz 300, both traveling westbound on the turnpike. It did not identify the man who was killed.
But on Friday, Chester County Coroner Christina VandePol identified the victim as Logan Carl Abbott, 30, of Bradford County.
In a statement Friday, State Police spokesperson Brent Miller said the investigation is “active and ongoing,” and his agency is trying to determine whether other vehicles may have been involved.
“The crash scene was large and the turnpike [westbound] was closed for approximately seven hours,” said Miller. “PSP still needs the public’s help. Anyone who witnessed, has video, or other information regarding this crash is asked to contact the Troop T-King of Prussia station at 610-279-1605.”
Nicholas Forgette, a highway construction worker who was working on the turnpike Wednesday evening, said he was on the opposite side of the highway when he saw Gerow’s car pass by with a motorcycle wedged into the grill of the car.
In an interview Friday, Forgette said the first thing he noticed were sparks coming off a car that was traveling at a high rate of speed in the westbound lanes of the turnpike. He and members of his construction crew who were with him were dumbstruck, he said.
“Everyone was in disbelief,” he said. “That is not something you see every day. It was a big motorcycle, too. There were a bunch of sparks. And it was very loud.”
Forgette, who works for a traffic control company in Pottstown, said Gerow was pulled over by State Police several miles from where he first saw him. He said Gerow was sitting on a guardrail, stone-faced and “kind of disconnected.”
When he saw Gerow’s car, he said the motorcycle “was sitting upright, with the side stuck into the front of the car.”
He said he left before the roadway reopened, but his crew members told him that Gerow was directed into the front seat of a cruiser and driven away from the scene.
Gerow, a longtime Republican strategist based in Harrisburg, announced his run for governor last month, saying he’s a “coalition builder” who can unite the GOP and expand its appeal as a Latino immigrant who found opportunity in the United States.
He said he would campaign as a “conservative happy warrior,” with a focus on helping the state’s economy rebound after being shut down during the pandemic, and making Pennsylvania more attractive to businesses.
Gerow was born in Brazil and adopted by American missionaries who later returned to the United States.
He began his political career working for Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign. He ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate and Congress multiple times in the 1980s and 1990s, then founded the Harrisburg-based public affairs firm Quantum Communications in 2001.
He also serves as vice chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual gathering known as CPAC, and was a cochair of businesswoman Carly Fiorina’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Two weeks ago, Gerow addressed CPAC’s members in a meeting in Dallas, addressing such topics as cancel culture, election integrity, critical race theory, abortion, and public funding for private schools.
Gerow, who received cheers from the crowd when he mentioned his candidacy for governor, struck a bipartisan note while pointing out that Republicans and Democrats support criminal justice reform.
”Because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Inquirer staff writers Chris Brennan and Andrew Seidman contributed to this article.