Prosecutors lashed out at a Lackawanna man as he was sentenced Thursday to up to 20 years in prison for driving drunk last May in Wyoming County and crashing into a packed minivan, killing three people and injuring six others.
The Wyoming County District Attorney's Office blasted Richard D. Sawicki for getting behind the wheel after a night of drinking and for attempting to avoid full responsibility for his actions by pointing to his age – 20 – at the time of the crash.
Sawicki thought only of himself that night, the office said, as evidenced by his comment to a witness in the moments after the horrific crash: "I need a beer."
"Richard Sawicki is 100% responsible for the carnage that he caused on May 26, 2019," District Attorney Donald O'Geen said in the statement.
O'Geen described a poignant sentencing hearing on Thursday, when Wyoming County Judge Michael Mohun sentenced Sawicki to 6 2/3 to 20 years in prison. He also was ordered to pay more than $21,000 in restitution.
The statement provided new details about the events of May 26, when authorities say Sawicki was driving south on Maxon Road, near Route 20A, in Varysburg just before 6:40 a.m.
They contend Sawicki had spent all night drinking at a friend's house before leaving in the early morning hours. He was following someone and driving at 70 mph when, investigators said, he went through a stop sign and smashed broadside into a minivan that was westbound on 20A.
Those killed were members of a family from near Perth Amboy, N.J.
Two people died at the scene: Ondina Castro De La Cruz, 47, and Mayelin Brito-Castro, 32, who were both ejected from the minivan. A 4-year-old child suffered a head injury and died at Wyoming County Community Hospital about an hour after the crash.
Two other 4-year-olds, a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old were taken to John R. Oishei Children's Hospital in Buffalo. Two other adult occupants of the minivan also were injured.
O'Geen said Thursday that one 4-year-old will never fully recover from her injuries.
The nine family members were crowded into a seven-seat minivan, which did not have any child or booster seats, and not everyone in the van was buckled up, the Sheriff's Office said in the days after the crash.
Sawicki was treated for minor injuries at ECMC and charged with driving while intoxicated, aggravated vehicular homicide and reckless driving.
O'Geen said that one of Sawicki's friends saw what had happened in her rearview mirror, pulled over and asked her passenger to check on Sawicki. Kristina Kriger found Sawicki in the pickup, according to prosecutors, and asked if he was OK. He said yes, before falling face first from the vehicle, picking himself up and saying he could use another drink, O'Geen said.
Kriger and the driver of the vehicle, Baillie Schwab, did not voluntarily come forward but did give statements once investigators tracked them down saying Sawicki shouldn't have driven after drinking so much at Schwab's home.
Sawicki pleaded guilty in October to aggravated vehicular homicide and assault and faced up to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
Two family members spoke out at Thursday morning's sentencing.
"It was a highly emotional victim statement that brought both the victim’s family as well as the members of the defendant’s family to tears," O'Geen said.
He must serve at least 6 2/3 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
O'Geen deemed it "repugnant" that a 20-year-old could claim he wasn't responsible for the drunk-driving crash because his brain isn't fully developed.
"I have said it time and time again," O'Geen said in the statement. "It is the Richard Sawickis of the world that are the most dangerous people in the Wyoming County community as they are most likely type of criminal that will cause the death of me, a member of my family, a member of my community or any member of the general public. While these are not intentional crimes they are the most preventable crimes – making them as serious and as egregious as intentional crimes."