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West Seneca police charge man on payloader with DWI

The drunken driving arrest West Seneca police made Friday night was not a typical DWI stop.

Officers were dispatched at about 6:40 p.m. Friday after receiving several reports of a payloader stuck in the mud on Casimer Street. Witnesses, including a couple of the town’s sewer department employees, reported that its operator appeared to be intoxicated.

Police found the payloader stuck in the mud on the berm overlooking Buffalo Creek. After talking to witnesses, officers determined that Daniel J. Chowaniec, 45, of Weimer Street, Buffalo, had stolen the payloader, valued at $150,000, from the salt barn at the Thruway’s Ogden Street exit ramp.

Chowaniec had driven the payloader from the salt barn and ended up on Casimer Street, where he attempted to traverse the flood control berm between the street and the creek, police said. Along the way, he caused extensive damage to town property, police said.

After failing field sobriety tests, Chowaniec was charged with driving while intoxicated by Officers Travis Deubell and Jesse Reed. He also was charged with felony counts of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, criminal mischief, criminal possession of stolen property and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Police said Chowaniec refused to take a chemical test to determine the amount of alcohol in his system.

Following arraignment in West Seneca Town Court, Chowaniec was sent to the Erie County Holding Center in lieu of a total of $10,000 cash or $20,000 property bail.

Representatives of the state Thruway Authority removed the payloader. State Police also lodged a felony charge of grand larceny in connection with the theft of Thruway Authority property.