Seconds before a grinding crash fatally injured two fishermen, a man navigating another powerboat said he saw only a dim, green light on the doomed fishing boat, which was anchored off Strawberry Island in the Niagara River.
That testimony emerged Thursday during the manslaughter trial of Daniel J. English, 47, who is accused of navigating the powerboat that rammed the doomed boat in the early morning hours of July 27, 1995.
Free on bail, English, 47, went on trial a week ago before State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang and a jury in the deaths of Mark Guizotti, 31, and Alexander Dann, 41, both of Niagara Street, at about 12:30 a.m. July 27, 1995.
James Coyle, 37, a Town of Tonawanda auto mechanic who once worked with English, said it was only "seconds" after he passed the Guizotti boat that he heard a noise and was told by a passenger that English apparently had struck the fishing boat.
Coyle, whose craft was about 200 feet ahead of English's powerboat as they were both heading for a Tonawanda riverfront bar to eat, said he could not see "universal" safety lights glowing off Strawberry Island and isn't even sure what sort of light he saw on the Guizotti boat.
The trial enters its second week today, with testimony from Coast Guard officers and Erie County sheriff's deputies who investigated the crash and discovered the bodies of the victims about 10 hours after the crash.
Also Thursday, Brian Colern, 30, a former co-worker of English who was out for his first boat ride the morning of the crash, testified that English never lost consciousness after the head-on crash and decided quickly to take his damaged powerboat in for repairs instead of searching for possible victims.
Colern, now a Buffalo factory machine operator, said he was out of work for three months because of injuries he suffered in the crash and lost his spleen.
English's lawyers, Paul J. Cambria, Herbert L. Greenman and Joseph M. LaTona, questioned if Guizotti's boat was equipped with the legally required white safety light at the time of the crash, or if the victim turned it off to avoid drawing sandflies that infest Strawberry Island.
Raymond Wolford, a deputy with the Erie County Sheriff's Marine Division, said that the boat's stern safety light was damaged after the crash.
Wolford said that both state and federal navigation laws require all boats to have bright white lights on their stern that are well above all other objects on the craft and can be seen for two miles in all directions at night.