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Amherst OKs settlement in fatal crash on bike path

The Town of Amherst has reached a settlement with the family of a woman killed by a drunk driver nearly three years ago on a town bike path.

The town will pay $375,000 to Foster Pelton, whose wife, Sheila, 81, was killed Nov. 11, 2012 when a drunk motorcyclist veered off Tonawanda Creek Road and plowed into a group of pedestrians on the bike path. Foster Pelton, who was 79 at the time of the crash, also suffered multiple injuries.

Another woman, Jocelyn B. Elberson, 25, of the Town of Tonawanda, was killed in the accident, as well. Elberson’s death, however, was not part of this settlement, which was approved by the Amherst Town Board this week.

The Pelton family filed claims against the Town of Amherst that it failed to properly design and protect residents along that stretch of the bike path, where there is no barrier separating pedestrians from street traffic.

An attorney for the Pelton family of East Amherst did not return a call from The Buffalo News seeking comment.

Amherst Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones would only say that the matter has been resolved.

The motorcyclist, David A. Smith, who has six arrests for driving while intoxicated in three states over the last 15 years, was sentenced in State Supreme Court last year to four to 12 years in prison.

Under terms of the settlement, Smith will pay out $100,000 to Pelton and another $100,000 to the administrator for the estate of Sheila Pelton, according to documents made public by the Town of Amherst.

While the agreement doesn’t constitute as an admission that the town was liable, one Amherst official said he will look into whether any improvements should be made along the bike path to make it safer for the public.

Councilmember Mark A. Manna said he will sponsor a resolution asking the town’s engineering and planning departments to make recommendations.

“My goal would be to take reasonable safety precautions, knowing that government can’t protect residents from every unforeseen tragic event,” Manna said.