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Crash that killed musician and his dog nets driver up to 12 years in prison

A nearby resident heard the horrific crash that killed Guy Van Iderstine Dec. 9 and rushed outside.

He saw the 59-year-old musician’s body on the ground, and Van Iderstine’s best friend, his dog Monte, was lying on top of him. Although Monte’s back was broken, he was still alive, and he looked back at the man in pure fear.

Veterinarians couldn’t save the dog, and Monte’s ashes were later placed with those of his owner.

John Zakrzewski, the driver who caused the crash in Elma last winter, received a prison sentence of four to 12 years in State Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon. He pleaded guilty in March to vehicular manslaughter, although Van Iderstine’s twin brother, Glenn, said Wednesday that his family sees it as a much more serious crime.

Before sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Kelley A. Omel described what led to the crash, with Glenn Van Iderstine filling in the horrifying details.

Zakrzewski, 31, of Lancaster, worked part time as a scientist for 42 North Brewing Co. in East Aurora. That’s where he was that night, not, as he originally told police, “having a couple beers at a friend’s house.”

“Who better than a scientist who specializes in beer production to know the dangers of drinking and driving?” Omel asked.

Zakrzewski later admitted to downing three pints or more of a special “Imperial Stout,” a drink that is 15 percent alcohol, at the brewery before he went to the public section and drank some more.

By the time he was thrown out of the restaurant for grabbing a woman and causing a disturbance, he was more than “double drunk,” with a blood alcohol content of 0.19 percent – so drunk that Zakrzewski’s attorney said he doesn’t remember anything else that happened before he was arrested.

He doesn’t remember speeding north on Girdle Road, where a school security camera caught his vehicle going 105 mph.

He doesn’t remember running a red light at Bullis Road, crashing into the side of a car carrying Wayne and Cathy Clark as they turned onto Girdle and then slamming head-on into Van Iderstine’s car, which was stopped at the light.

The engine of Van Iderstine’s car went into the passenger compartment; the rest of his Geo Metro was pretty much shattered. Zakrzewski’s vehicle – its speedometer stuck at 110 mph – wound up so far from the scene that police first thought the crash involved only two cars.

“The speed that John was going left Guy no time to avoid him,” Glenn Van Iderstine said as he fought back tears. “He drove with a high and callous disregard for human life. This was a loaded weapon in the hands of a callous punk.”

Mark Tuberdyke also spoke about his longtime friend Guy. The two performed together years ago as the band Unison, and in the four months before Guy died, they were making a new album.

Tuberdyke mourned the loss of the man he called “a golden friend” and said that loss extended far beyond Western New York.

An emotional Zakrzewski, who is married and has an 11-month-old son, also turned to address the victim’s family.

“I never imagined I would be responsible for so much suffering and pain,” he said. “I cannot begin to say how horrible I feel. This is the worst thing I have ever experienced, but I’m sure it pales in comparison to Mr. Van Iderstine’s family and friends. I am eternally sorry.”

Justice John L. Michalski sentenced Zakrzewski to an indeterminate term of four to 12 years, revoked his license for a year after he is released and required him to have an ignition interlock for five years, should he ever drive again. He also fined him $5,000.

email: mmiller@buffnews.com