An Amherst man who drowned after his car plunged into the Erie Canal early Monday had been convicted of driving while intoxicated twice since 1996.
Donald J. Kreuter, 42, of Tonawanda Creek Road, got his license back in October after his latest alcohol-related offense, according to records of the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Kreuter had been drinking and was parked about 25 feet from the edge of the canal at 1:30 a.m. Monday, when his car raced forward into the canal near Main and Sweeney streets, North Tonawanda police said.
A curb stop and patch of concrete were the only things that stood between him and the canal.
"There was no state of mind that suggests or indicates it was a suicide," North Tonawanda police Detective Lt. Thomas Krantz told The Buffalo News on Tuesday.
Kreuter "easily could have driven in accidentally," Krantz said.
Kreuter and a female friend had attended the Canal Fest fireworks a few hours earlier and had been drinking alcohol, Krantz said. Kreuter and the unidentified friend, who was not in the car, had not been arguing, he added.
For the last five years, Kreuter worked as the weeknight disc jockey at Rick's Tally Ho strip club in Cheektowaga, owner Richard A. Snowden said Tuesday.
"Donny had worked for us . . . as the emcee of the cabaret show," Snowden said. "He was the voice of our nightclub. He would introduce our girls, speak to the audience and tell jokes. He was a very good and loyal employee. He'd work 40 to 50 hours a week.
"We are all deeply saddened by his untimely death."
At this point, police don't know how much alcohol Kreuter consumed before the crash. Toxicology tests will take three to six weeks, Krantz said.
Kreuter also was a double amputee with two prosthetic legs after being injured while serving in the Persian Gulf War during the early 1990s, Snowden said. Police have suggested that this also could have contributed to the crash.
State records show that Kreuter has a history of alcohol-related driving offenses. His license was reinstated in October after a 19-month suspension for drunken driving.
Kreuter's license was revoked twice since 2002, and he was convicted in 2004 of driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, DMV records show. He was convicted of driving while impaired by alcohol in 2002.
He also was convicted of driving while intoxicated in 1996, according to state records.
When he drove into the canal, his car hit a boat with people on it. No one on the boat was injured, police said.
Krantz said Tuesday that a volunteer firefighter, who did not want his name released, jumped into the canal and tried to rescue Kreuter. The firefighter reported that his wallet was stolen while he was in the water.
The firefighter was unable to break the windows before the car went under, Krantz said.
Kreuter has family in the area, including children, and was once married, Krantz said.
Snowden said the Rick's Tally Ho staff heard about Kreuter's death as they came to work Monday, but it didn't hit them until that evening, when Kreuter's sister and several friends held an impromptu memorial service in the club.
"They were all there and drank his favorite shots," Snowden said. "It was touching and nice."