Sewers, roads, and finances – staples of municipal meeting agendas – took a back seat at the Aug. 14 council meeting as Cornwall Borough honored police Officer Adrian Cann for rescuing an 80-year-old man trapped in a burning vehicle on July 1.

The crash occurred in South Lebanon Township, but Cann, a 24-year Army veteran who has been a Cornwall officer since 2016, was the first officer to get to the scene, according to council president Bruce Harris.

Several witnesses who were at the scene addressed council and described Cann’s actions.

One man, who did not give his name, recalled coming upon a burning car that had crashed into rocks on Route 419. “The engine was fully engulfed” and black smoke and flames were so thick that “when I got to the car, you couldn’t even see in. We had no idea who was in there, how many people, the smoke was that thick.”

The witness said he only realized someone was inside when the driver honked the car’s horn.

“I tried smashing the back window open with a piece of pipe I had in my car, but it just bent.” Another motorist tried to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, but that “was a losing battle.”

When Cann showed up, the witness recalled, he immediately took off his gun belt and tried unsuccessfully to get inside the vehicle. “Then I handed him his baton, he smashed the back window, but couldn’t get in that way.”

Finally, Cann and several passing motorists pushed the car, which was leaning sideways against the rocks, back onto its wheels. That allowed Cann to enter the burning car, but he was unable to pull the belted driver out.

Cann told another motorist to unbuckle the driver’s seat belt, then entered the flaming vehicle a second time and pulled the driver to safety.

“He was on all fours coughing, but he brought the guy out,” the witness said. “You could just see that he knew what he was doing. There was no hesitation.”

Cann received written proclamations for his heroism from Cornwall Mayor Mark Thomas, state Senator Chris Gebhard, and state Rep. John Schlegel.

Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf spoke briefly, remarking that “when you think about police today, everything these guys and girls go through, who would want to be a police officer right now?” Looking at Cann, she answered, “This is a perfect example.”

Cann spoke briefly, crediting his Army training and the borough’s willingness to invest in training its officers for helping him to successfully rescue the elderly driver.

Unfortunately, the driver died on July 28 from injuries sustained in the crash. Nevertheless, his sister, speaking on behalf of several relatives present, told council that Cann’s actions had given them a chance to say goodbye that they would not have had if he had died in the car.

“Even though his story ends sadly,” she said, “the month that he was in the hospital gave us an opportunity to communicate with him. And at the end we were able to say goodbye and have that closure.”

In other business before council, several residents voiced concerns over the safety of getting in and out of the Spring Hill Acres development, which has only one public access road, at busy Route 72.

Southbound traffic on Route 72, a state highway controlled by PennDOT, not the borough, has to make a left turn to enter the development, sometimes resulting in rear-end collisions.

Spring Hill Acres was developed in 1974, and council president Harris remarked that a single access road would not be approved under modern standards.

The lone access road to the heavily-wooded development could also impede fire and emergency vehicles as well as emergency evacuations, said one resident who referred to the recent deadly wildfire in Hawaii.

An emergency exit road for Spring Hill Acres residents exists, but it is unpaved and not maintained. Several residents agreed that fire trucks and larger emergency vehicles would not be able to use it in its present state.

Mayor Thomas suggested that two roads intersecting Route 72, one for ingress, one for egress to the development, would be a good solution. However, borough manager Cody Rhoads said that PennDOT considers the current intersection “high functioning” and safe.

Council agreed to ask for a meeting with PennDOT, Senator Gebhard, and Rep. Schlegel to discuss Spring Hill Acres access.

Other business before Council

  • Council heard complaints from several residents about a concrete plant that had recently started operating on property surrounding the old Cornwall Quarry, which was purchased by Cornwall Properties LLC last year. They questioned whether the operation violated the terms of a “conditional use” that was granted years ago under the borough’s zoning law.
  • Arden Snook, owner of the building housing Boyer’s Tavern on Rexmont Road, asked the borough to pave the shoulder across the street from the tavern. Council agreed in principal, as long as Snook agreed to take responsibility for maintenance.
  • Council tabled until September meeting a decision on minimum 2024 pension contributions for employees.
  • Council passed a resolution proclaiming 2024 the “Year of the Arts” in Mount Gretna. 2024 will be the 50th anniversary of the Mount Gretna Art Show.
  • Council amended Ordinance 2023-2 to add regulations governing chickens as an accessory use under the zoning ordinance.
  • Council approved the resignation of Officer Greg Bender, and approved the hiring of an additional public works employee.
  • Harris reported that the borough sold a 1999 International dump truck for $2,000 to Rapho Township, Lancaster County. A July 5 explosion destroyed Rapho’s public works building and all the equipment kept there.
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using this contact form and we’ll do our best to get back to you.

Do you want to see more from LebTown?

Support local news. Cancel anytime.

Already a member? Login here

Free news isn’t cheap. If you value the journalism LebTown provides to the community, then help us make it sustainable by becoming a champion of local news. You can unlock additional coverage for the community by supporting our work with a one-time contribution, or joining as a monthly or annual member. You can cancel anytime.

Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...


LebTown membership required to comment.

Already a member? Login here

Leave a comment

Your email address will be kept private.