A man who was a passenger on another powerboat testified Tuesday that he saw a light and the lighted outline of a fishing boat in the water seconds before a powerboat ran over it, killing two fishermen.
Daniel J. English, 47, of Blasdell, went on trial Friday before State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang on manslaughter, assault and boating-violation charges for the July 27, 1995, deaths of Mark Guizotti, 31, and Alexander Dann, 41, both of Niagara Street.
The two bodies were not recovered until more than 10 hours after the 12:30 a.m. crash. Both men suffered multiple injuries and drowned.
Chris Poyfair, a passenger in a powerboat that was traveling several hundred yards ahead of English's boat, testified that he saw a light on Guizotti's 17-foot boat anchored off the east side of Strawberry Island while both powerboats were traveling between 40 and 50 miles per hour.
David Cich, harbormaster of Harbor Place off Niagara Street, told the jury most fishermen troll off the west side of Strawberry Island during daylight hours, rather than off the east side, where Guizotti's boat was, because the east side is a popular channel for boaters.
Cich will return to the stand today.
Poyfair, 35, of Lockport, a mechanic at an Amherst car dealership where English used to run the repair shop, was somewhat inexact
Tuesday about how soon he actually saw the light on the Guizotti boat before the crash.
Poyfair was riding in the Lun-A-Sea II, a powerboat driven by James Coyle, that was traveling several hundred yards ahead of English's boat, "The Bandit."
Poyfair told the jury he first noticed the Guizotti light when that boat was "slightly in front" of the Lun-A-Sea II.
Questioned by prosecutor Thomas P. Franczyk, Poyfair told the jury that as the Lun-A-Sea II moved about 100 yards to the right of Guizotti's boat, he thought he saw the light and the outline of the boat.
Under cross-examination from Herbert L. Greenman, one of English's lawyers, Poyfair admitted he hadn't seen a light on the Guizotti boat until seconds before the fatal crash and it was not a bright white light such as boaters use for nighttime safety.
Poyfair also said he didn't know if English, approaching the Guizotti boat from a slightly different angle, could see the light on the smaller boat.
Pressed by Franczyk, Poyfair told the jury he knew the light he saw near Strawberry Island just before the crash was coming from "a boat." He said the fatal crash made a noise like a boat "slapping water hard."
Poyfair said he and others spent several minutes unsuccessfully searching for any occupants of the fishing boat after the crash. Poyfair told the jury that Scott Houseknecht, 36, a passenger knocked out of English's boat, was "whistling" in the water for help as the "Lun-A-Sea II" came back to the crash scene and picked him up. He said he and Coyle kept shouting for others in the water but found no one.
Poyfair said when English, who had apparently been knocked unconscious by the crash, regained consciousness he said his boat was taking in water and drove off with steam coming from the back of his boat.
Poyfair said Coyle told English to call the Coast Guard but English didn't reply. He said Houseknecht tried unsuccessfully at the crash scene to use a cellular phone to contact help.
Houseknecht, who suffered a broken left arm, left in English's boat and testified Friday that he called the Coast Guard at 2:15 a.m. from St. Joseph Hospital near his Cheektowaga home.
Also Tuesday Michael L. Askew, a private security guard working at Harbor Place the morning of the fatal collision, told the jury that two men he couldn't identify brought English's boat back to the marina sometime after 1 a.m. and left after hurriedly scrubbing off the boat.