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DEPUTIES DOUBT DEFENDANT SAW PARKED TRUCK

A Newfane man charged with alcohol-impaired driving last winter apparently never saw a parked pickup truck before striking it and severely injuring a good Samaritan, according to testimony from deputies who investigated the three-vehicle accident.

Richard J. Calhoon, 72, was also charged with two counts of criminally negligent assault in the February crash that injured Thomas J. Slattery Jr. and Ernest Ganshaw.

Both Slattery and Ganshaw had stopped to help tow a third vehicle from a ditch on Hess Road in Ransomville. The impact of the crash resulted in the loss of Slattery's legs.

Wednesday -- the third day of Calhoon's criminal trial in Newfane Town Court before Justice Margaret C. Hamilton -- the last of 17 prosecution witnesses was called.

Deputy Daniel Douglas of the Niagara County Sheriff's Department, who interviewed Calhoon in an ambulance at the accident scene, noted the smell of alcohol on the man's breath.

"His answers were unusual for the circumstances, totally inappropriate," Douglas said, adding that Calhoon maintained that he had not seen Ganshaw's parked truck.

Deputy Brett Thompson, an accident investigator, said a number of factors -- including the absence of skid and swerve marks -- indicated that Calhoon simply had not seen the truck.

It also was apparent that Calhoon was driving at a prudent rate of speed at the time of the crash, according to Thompson.

"From the damage to the vehicle, I'm guessing 35 to 40 mph, a reasonable speed based on the conditions," Thompson said.

The speed limit posted on the rural stretch of Hess is 55 mph, according to deputies. But weather conditions of patchy fog and rain were prevalent on the evening of Feb. 18, when the crash occurred.

Calhoon, the former owner of Calhoon's Pub in Newfane, told investigators that he was driving home from Garlock's Restaurant in Lockport at the time of the crash. He said he drank a "couple of beers" before getting behind the wheel of his truck, according to testimony at the trial.

Calhoon's alcohol content -- measured from blood taken almost two hours after the 8 p.m. crash -- was later tested at .07, indicating impairment.

Dr. Cedric M. Smith, on the faculty of the University at Buffalo School of Medicine's department of pharmacology and toxicology, offered expert testimony on the effects of alcohol on driving.

"Alcohol tends to suppress peripheral vision by 20 percent," Smith said. "Movements of the eyes become impaired and degraded."

Attorney P. Andrew Vona of the Lockport firm Muscato, DiMillo & Vona is representing Calhoon.

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