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Driver in fatal motorcycle crash convicted of manslaughter, DUI

Earlier this year we told you about the case of a retired police officer who caused a motorcycle crash that killed two people and injured several others. The 50-year-old was convicted in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, this week on charges of involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence and reckless endangerment. But he was acquitted of the more serious charges of homicide by vehicle. Although the prosecutor in the case was happy with the verdict, the same can't be said of the surviving members of the motorcycle group that was hit with the former officer's vehicle.

The motorcycle accident happened in July 2011 as seven bikers were headed to a wake for another member of their motorcycle club. According to prosecutors, the officer had consumed up to six alcoholic beverages the day he struck the line of motorcyclists with his pickup truck on a Bangor, Pennsylvania, road. Two men were killed and four more bikers were injured.

One of the central questions in the officer's trial was whether he was truly intoxicated. His defense attorney acknowledged that his client caused the accident, but not as a result of alcohol. The man had undergone gastric bypass surgery several years before, leaving him susceptible to rapid drops in his blood sugar levels. An endocrinologist testifying for the defense said the man's medical records suggested he passed out behind the wheel after suffering an attack of hypoglycemia. Yet right after the accident, the officer refused to submit to a blood test that would have measured the level of alcohol in his system. The jury ultimately convicted him of DUI.

The families of the victims as well as the bikers who survived the crash were disappointed in the mixed verdict, which will result in less than the maximum amount of prison time the driver faced with all of the charges filed against him. Earlier this year they filed a civil lawsuit against the bars who allegedly served the officer before the crash, asserting that the bars' staff members were negligent in serving an intoxicated patron and doing nothing to prevent him from driving afterward. The status of that lawsuit is unknown, but it's possible the outcome of the criminal trial will have an effect on the civil case, which could result in some monetary compensation for the plaintiffs.

Source: Pocono Record, "Heaney skirts vehicle homicide charge in Bangor motorcycle crash," Dec. 12, 2012

• Our firm assists victims and families who have suffered losses as a result of a motorcycle accident. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Harrisburg motorcycle accident page.

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