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Westmoreland

Motorized chair didn’t have reflector when hit in Rostraver

A state police accident investigator told a Westmoreland County jury Wednesday that the motorized wheelchair a Rostraver man was operating when he was seriously injured in a vehicle crash two years ago should have had a headlight and reflectors.

Trooper Todd Stephenson testified that Byron White’s chair was in violation of vehicle codes, but it still should have been visible on Route 136 when it was struck because of illumination from nearby structures.

“A normal-reacting, sober person could see the wheelchair from 300 feet away,” Stephenson testified during the third day in the aggravated assault and drunken driving trial of 56-year-old Donald Eichler of Rostraver.

The prosecution contends Eichler was drunk on Nov. 6, 2012, when his pickup truck slammed into White’s wheelchair.

White, had just closed up his former shop, the Gun Rack on Route 136 in Rostraver, at sundown and started to ride his wheelchair to his home next door when he was struck along the side of the road.

Jurors heard evidence earlier in the trial that Eichler’s blood-alcohol content two hours after the crash was 0.30 percent, nearly four times the limit a motorist in Pennsylvania is considered to be intoxicated.

Police said after the truck hit White’s wheelchair, Eichler drove to his home nearby.

He later told investigators he drank about three beers at the German Club in Collinsburg before he drove home. He thought he hit a deer during the trip, Eichler told police.

Stephenson was the only witness to testify Wednesday. He told jurors the state’s motor vehicle code requires motorized wheelchairs to have a headlight and front and side reflectors.

White’s chair, which he started to use two days earlier, had neither, Stephenson testified.

The defense has suggested that White was partially at fault for the accident because his wheelchair couldn’t be seen on the road.

Defense attorney Chris Huffman said no defense witnesses would be called to testify.

Eichler told Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio that he would not testify.

The judge said attorneys will make closing arguments to the jury on Thursday morning. Deliberations are expected to begin afterward, she said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].


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