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Doctor tied to 'martini golf' before fatal hit-run

Investigators now believe that a prominent Getzville doctor participated in a "martini golf" event at Transit Valley Country Club just hours before he was accused of fatally striking a teenage skateboarder with his car.

Amherst police have attempted to interview every Transit Valley employee working on the evening of July 8, a few hours before authorities say a vehicle driven by Dr. James G. Corasanti fatally injured 18-year-old Alexandria "Alix" Rice.

Corasanti has been charged with driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a fatal incident, which occurred at 11:23 p.m. on Heim Road in Amherst.

Transit Valley's summer social calendar listed an event called "couples' martini golf," from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The $25 fee included, according to the calendar, "food and beverages at the Halfway House and on-course."

Other sources said there was a martini station open before the golfing and additional stations offering food and drinks at various holes on the course.

Transit Valley officials cooperated with investigators, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said Monday.

Sedita and prosecutor James F. Bargnesi said investigators have "preliminary results" on Corasanti's blood-alcohol level but would not elaborate.

Prosecutors noted that Corasanti's blood was not drawn until 4 1/2 to 5 hours after the hit-and-run incident on Heim Road, so experts now will try to determine what his blood-alcohol level would have been earlier.

"Given the lapse of time between the accident and the actual drawing of his blood through a court order, there has to be additional forensic and scientific tests to determine what his blood-alcohol content was at the time of [the incident]," Sedita said.

"It took 4 1/2 to 5 hours because he required us to go through the additional legal step of obtaining a court order in the middle of the night," Bargnesi said.

Amherst police, praised for their round-the-clock efforts by both the District Attorney's Office and the attorney for Rice's estate, are pursuing three lines of investigation:

The speed of Corasanti's vehicle, via eyewitness accounts and an accident reconstruction.

*The blood-alcohol content at the time of the incident.

*The statements by Corasanti's neighbors, people at the Transit Valley event and anyone else who knows about Corasanti's actions before and after Rice was struck.

Investigators have said that Corasanti surrendered to Amherst police at a Millersport Highway service station at 12:54 a.m., 91 minutes after the fatal incident.

Sedita and Bargnesi said that there was physical evidence that led police to home in on Corasanti as a suspect within minutes of the incident.

"It was agreed that he would be at the Noco station and wait for officers," said Bargnesi, who's working the case along with Kelley A. Omel, chief of the district attorney's Vehicular Crimes Bureau.

Authorities have said that Corasanti's car, a 2010 BMW, was in his garage while he walked to the service station.
Amherst police so far have talked with everyone they could find who was with Corasanti that evening. But authorities haven't been entirely successful in getting interviews, notably with Corasanti's wife, Laureen.

"She continues to refuse to speak with investigators," Sedita said. "There's also a neighbor who has been uncooperative, who we believe has crucial information."

Amherst detectives still want to talk with anyone new with information about Corasanti's actions that night. They can be reached at 689-1311.

Investigators want to know how much Corasanti may have been drinking that night, but they don't sound as if they're targeting Transit Valley or people at the golf event. The club is on Transit Road in East Amherst.

"If adults wish to consume alcohol in a social setting, that is their right and privilege," Sedita said. "When it becomes illegal is when they get behind the wheel of a 3,000-pound vehicle."

Transit Valley officials could not be reached to comment Monday. Thomas H. Burton, Corasanti's attorney, declined to comment.

In the meantime, Rice's family and friends are trying to keep her memory alive, as they plan for a benefit walk on Heim Road.

The purpose would be twofold -- to raise the awareness of the consequences of drinking and driving and to encourage people to sign up for organ donation, said Christopher J. O'Brien, an attorney representing Rice's estate.

Rice was a strong proponent of organ donation, and her wishes led her family to donate some of her organs. Organizers hope that representatives from Upstate New York Transplant Services may attend the walk to sign up potential donors.

O'Brien, who said he's looking into a possible civil suit, said Rice's family has insisted that he allow police to talk with everyone involved before he does.

He also clarified that Rice was heading from her pizzeria job to her father's home on a "longboard" -- more like a snowboard than a normal skateboard -- which she used for transportation. "It was her passion really," he added. "She loved longboarding."