Archive

ShareThis Page
Rostraver man found guilty in crash that injured gun shop owner | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Rostraver man found guilty in crash that injured gun shop owner

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, November 6, 2014 3:08 p.m.
gtrwverdict110714
Donald Eichler

A Westmoreland County man could be sentenced to up to 17 years in prison for driving drunk in a crash that severely injured a Rostraver man who was traveling in a motorized wheelchair alongside Route 136 two years ago.

A jury found Donald Eichler, 55, of Rostraver guilty of aggravated assault while driving under the influence, two counts of driving under the influence and hit and run.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for three hours Thursday before returning the verdict to Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio.

Eichler was accused of driving drunk when his truck hit Byron White as he was traveling in the wheelchair alongside a dark stretch of Route 136 in Rostraver shortly before 6 p.m. on Nov. 6, 2012. White was traveling a short distance from his former business, The Gun Rack, to his home next door.

White and his wife were not present for the verdict, but Barbara White testified on the first day of the three-day trial. She told jurors that her husband had used a wheelchair for 11 years after suffering a series of strokes and he had started to use the motorized chair two days before the crash.

Barbara White testified she found her husband lying unconscious on the road. He suffered broken ribs and a fractured pelvis and requires specialized health care, she said.

Prosecutors argued that Eichler was driving erratically before the collision.

“The defendant knew he hit something and he knew that he was drunk, and that’s why he never stopped,” Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda told jurors in closing arguments. “We have him intentionally disregarding the fact that his drunk-driving condition is a substantial risk to others.”

Police found Eichler at his home, about 2 miles away on Salem Church Road. His blood-alcohol content about two hours and 30 minutes after the collision was 0.30 percent, prosecutors said.

A driver in Pennsylvania is considered to be drunk at 0.08 percent.

Defense attorney Chris Huffman suggested that Eichler drank when he got home after the accident.

“This is a very emotional case,” Huffman told jurors. “Mr. White came in here, all of our hearts broke for Mr. White … but accidents happen.”

Huffman argued that Eichler was not driving erratically and was simply trying to get home after he presumed he struck a deer.

Police found debris on the road that they linked to Eichler’s vehicle through a serial number.

Because it is considered a motor vehicle, White’s wheelchair should have had a headlight and reflectors, according to testimony.

“Just because Mr. White didn’t have a reflector on the rear of his wheelchair doesn’t mean that Mr. Eichler is not guilty of the offense,” Powanda argued.

Eichler will be sentenced in about 90 days. He has been incarcerated at the Westmoreland County Prison on $50,000 bail since November 2012.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.