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BEER, FOG CALLED KEYS TO TRAGEDY

Beer, patchy fog and a parked pickup truck played key roles in a crash last winter that cost good Samaritan Thomas J. Slattery his legs, a jury was told Tuesday.

The trial of Richard J. Calhoon, 71, entered its second day Tuesday before Newfane Town Justice Margaret C. Hamilton. Calhoon, of Newfane, faces charges of driving while his ability was impaired and criminally negligent assault in connection with the February crash on Hess Road in Ransomville.

"The days when you can have a (six-pack) and one or two for the road are gone," said Ted Brenner, Niagara County assistant district attorney. "This case will prove what happens when good people drink and drive."

About 8 p.m. Feb. 18, Slattery, 24, was with his uncle, Ernest Ganshaw, when the two stopped to help a group of teens whose car had entered a ditch on Hess, a half-mile north of Gow Road. Ganshaw told the jury they were at the scene 10 minutes before the pickup driven by Calhoon first struck the Ganshaw truck, then bounced off the teens' compact car.

Calhoon, represented by attorney Andy Vona, was arrested in Lockport Memorial Hospital, less than two hours after the crash. Calhoon, whose blood-alcohol content of .07, told police he drank two draft beers and was driving home from Garlock's Restaurant in Lockport at the time of the crash. He suffered a head laceration.

"His neck was braced and he was bleeding from the face," testified Sgt. Louis J. Faery of the Niagara County Sheriff's Department. "He was disheveled and had glassy eyes. Was it intoxication? Or was it a result of the crash? I couldn't tell."

Faery, recalling patches of dense fog that required him to "proceed with caution" to the accident scene, pointed to the fog as possible causes of the crash. He also said the pickup truck of Slattery's uncle, Ganshaw, was parked in the wrong direction.

Vona, who earlier cautioned the jury that "sympathy for Mr. Slattery must stay out of this courtroom," repeatedly questioned testimony that described Calhoon's slurred speech and unsteady gait.

"Isn't it possible if he were bleeding from a cut in the mouth he would have difficulty with his speech?" Vona posed. "That type of injury would make you have difficulty walking."

"I started to realize what just happened and was looking at everyone lying on the ground," recalled one of the teens, Michael Roggow, who also was knocked to the ground.

Slattery also was on the ground nearby, testified Kathleen Colletti, of Barker. Ms. Colletti told the jury she was teaching her 16-year-old daughter how to drive when they discovered the crash.

"(Slattery) was trying to sit up," Ms. Colletti recalled. "I was holding him down. He kept on saying he couldn't feel his legs."

On Tuesday at the trial, Slattery sat in the courtroom's front row with fiance, Sandy Herrick, at his side. He told the jury he couldn't remember anything about the crash.

"I remember getting out of the vehicle, and then I was just laying there," he said. "Somebody was talking to me, but I don't know what they were saying."

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