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Remorse for a man's death

Former city snowplow driver Rowan S. Gaines broke into tears Tuesday and repeatedly apologized to his victim's mother as he was sentenced to prison for killing a pedestrian while drunkenly driving a plow truck on Kensington Avenue two years ago.

"I'm so sorry," Gaines repeatedly told Yvonne Andrew as he apologized for the death of Allen M. Andrew, 42.

Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka sentenced Gaines to one to three years. Gaines, who had worked for the city for 23 years, could have received up to 15 years.

Against his lawyer's advice, Gaines, 46, pleaded guilty Sept. 22 to second-degree manslaughter.

During a tearful statement to the judge, Andrew said her son had been "everything" to her, especially since the 2007 death of her husband, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Andrew said she still cannot comprehend how even a drunk plow truck driver couldn't have seen her 6-foot, 4-inch son as he walked at about 4:30 a.m. on snow-covered Kensington near Parkridge Avenue on Jan. 23, 2009.

Defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou told the judge that Gaines -- who lost his job, pension and house after the incident pleaded guilty against his recommendation. He called Gaines a churchgoing man who neither smokes nor does drugs and said Gaines didn't want to force the Andrew family to relive the tragedy at a trial.

A blood test taken about six hours after the fatal incident revealed that, even then, Gaines still had a blood-alcohol level over the state's legal limit, prosecutor Thomas M. Finnerty said. The Andrew family would not object to any sentence he imposed, he told the judge.

After the court session, Eoannou -- who had unsuccessfully argued for probation with no jail time -- said Gaines will be eligible for parole in a year and will spend a maximum of two years behind bars under the state sentencing mandates.

"Rowan was never concerned about the sentence," Eoannou said, adding that his client just wanted to tell the Andrew family "how bad he feels" now and will feel for the rest of his life.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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