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Prison and $73K restitution ordered in Erie County crash

The Erie County car accident happened because a U.S. Army private fell asleep behind the wheel on Interstate 90. The accused woman had been taking medication following gall bladder surgery and was supplementing painkillers with alcohol.

A husband and father of two was on his way to work last summer when the defendant's car rear ended his vehicle. The car accident caused the volunteer firefighter to lose control. The car driven by the 51-year-old man slid across a median and into opposing traffic. The driver suffered a traumatic brain injury after colliding head-on with a tractor trailer.

Investigators say the 24-year-old defendant was unhurt. Her vehicle stopped safely off the roadway. Despite the defendant's admission that she had been drinking alcohol and taking prescription drugs within hours of the accident, toxicology results showed no measurable trace of drugs or alcohol.

The car accident victim no longer lives with his wife or 11- and 14-year-old children. The need for full time care forces the former firefighter to live in a rehabilitation facility. The Erie County father's catastrophic brain injury was permanently disabling. He will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The defendant pleaded guilty in May to scaled-down charges of reckless endangerment, careless driving and a traffic infraction. Earlier aggravated assault and drunk driving charges were dropped.

The ex-Erie resident will spend up to two years in prison. A community service sentence of 200 hours will place the army private in a medical facility that cares for injury victims much like the man she hurt.

The judge also ordered the defendant to pay more than $73,000 in restitution to the accident victim and his family. The payment may help the family make up for lost income or pay for some of the victim's medical bills.

Requesting restitution following a criminal conviction does not bar the family from proceeding with a civil action. The accident victim's 24-hour medical care, the loss of the father's wages and the families grief can be eased by compensation recovered in a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: goerie.com, "Woman gets prison sentence in crash that injured former Erie-area firefighter," Gerry Weiss, July 20, 2012

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