Court rejects appeal of Rostraver man convicted of striking wheelchair-bound pedestrian while DUI
For the third time in two years, a state appellate court rejected a Rostraver Township man’s request to overturn his prison sentence of 1-1/2 to 8 years for striking and severely injuring a man in a wheelchair while driving on Route 136 in 2012.
A three-member state Superior Court panel on Friday dismissed the latest appeal of Donald C. Eichler, 59, seeking to dismiss his conviction on charges of aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, claiming police conducted an improper search and waited too long to test his blood-alcohol level after the Nov. 6, 2012, crash.
A Westmoreland County jury convicted Eichler in 2014 of striking Byron White, who was 74 and the owner of The Gun Rack along Route 136. Rostraver police said Eichler fled the scene of the incident and had a blood-alcohol content of 0.30 percent — nearly four times more than the legal limit in Pennsylvania.
According to trial testimony, White had used the wheelchair for 11 years. He had closed his business for the day and was heading home when he was hit by Eichler’s pickup truck.
White’s wife, Barbara, testified that after the crash, the couple were forced to close the business they operated for 27 years and her husband required skilled nursing care. He died in May 2017 at age 78.
At the time of the crash, investigators found a black Nissan truck with front end damage near Eichler’s home. Police said Eichler came out of his house, staggering and smelling of alcohol. He told investigators he thought he had hit a deer.
Eichler argued in his appeal that the search of his property should have been suppressed because the officer did not have a search warrant, and that his blood-alcohol level also should have been suppressed because he wasn’t tested within two hours after the crash.
The court ruled, however, that Eichler’s truck was in plain view in his driveway and that Eichler consented to the blood test.
Eichler is serving his sentence at the SCI-Huntingdon, according to online records.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.