A DUI related fatality in Erie last fall has led to a state prison sentence for a North East man. Frank Stewart was sentenced yesterday for the September 20, 2009 crash that killed his friend, Jeffrey Lencki.
Mr. Stewart was sentenced to three to six years, a sentence that will be served in a state facility for crimes including vehicular homicide while DUI. The accident happened September 20, 2009 near midnight when Mr. Stewart failed to negotiate a curve on Belle Road near Davison Road in Harborcreek Township and rolled the vehicle. Mr. Lencki, a passenger in the vehicle, was ejected and killed as a result.
Mr. Stewart’s blood alcohol content was 0.147 percent or nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
This event was Mr. Stewart’s second DUI related event in a 3 month span. Mr. Stewart also had a DUI arrest July 12, 2009 on Route 20 near Walbridge Road in Harborcreek Township. His BAC in the first arrest was reportedly 0.138 percent.
There is no happy outcome in these events. The article doesn’t tell us much about Mr. Lencki but it seems fair to assume his death leaves grieving loved ones, whether they be parents, a spouse, children or friends. Mr. Stewart’s fate is a tragedy, too. Apparently a man unable to respond to the wake-up call that his first arrest provided, his personal flaw now takes him from his loved ones and places him in a state facility where, frankly, few good things can happen. He, at least, has a chance at redemption and it is one I hope he uses to full advantage.
It bears observing that Mr. Lencki was ejected from the vehicle. The article does not report whether he was seat belted or not but it is reasonable to infer that he was not wearing his seatbelt. I do not blame Mr. Lencki for not wearing his seatbelt. The law is clear that such an action is not to be considered in legal cases in which blame is allocated and I see no point in assigning blame outside of that context. But it is worth noting that seat belts save lives in Pennsylvania car crashes and wearing them is one of the few things that passengers can do to protect themselves.
As an Erie, Pennsylvania accident lawyer who has been responsible for sorting out the legal consequences of many of these fatal car accidents I can tell you that I have never once seen a Pennsylvania car crash case in which someone was killed or suffered more severe injury as a result of having been seat belted. On the contrary, the gruesome photos and overwhelming evidence I’ve seen have led to one of the few New Year’s resolutions my wife and I have ever kept. We wear our seatbelts and we insist our children wear theirs, too.