The drunken motorcyclist who plowed into a group of pedestrians on an Amherst bike path Nov. 11, killing two women and injuring a man, pleaded guilty Thursday to vehicular manslaughter and assault.
The motorcycle operator, David A. Smith, 53, of Roselle Avenue, Niagara Falls, faces a minimum prison sentence of one to three years and a maximum term of five to 15 years, said Kelley A. Omel, chief of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office Vehicular Crimes Bureau.
Smith pleaded guilty to felony first-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree vehicular assault and misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.
“Were you in an intoxicated condition when you were operating this motorcycle?” State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang asked Smith during the plea hearing.
“Yes,” Smith replied.
The charges he admitted to are more severe than the ones authorities initially filed.
Smith admitted that while operating his motorcycle drunk, he lost control, drove off the road onto the bike path and killed Jocelyn B. Elberson, 25, of the Town of Tonawanda, and Sheila Pelton, 81, of East Amherst. Both were taken to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, where they were pronounced dead.
Pelton’s husband, Foster, 79, was taken by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center with serious injuries.
The victims’ families attended the court hearing. Amherst Police Department investigators also attended.
Several people were at the hearing on Smith’s behalf, as well.
The crash occurred at about 3:20 p.m. on a curvy stretch of Tonawanda Creek Road, between Campbell Boulevard and Hopkins Road. The path runs parallel to Tonawanda Creek Road. At the area where the pedestrians were struck, the path is just a few feet from the road, and there is no guardrail. At other points, the path is farther from the road.
Elberson, a prep cook at Bonefish Grill in the Boulevard Mall, was on a walk with her cockapoo puppy; her mother, Kathleen; and an aunt when Smith’s motorcycle came hurtling toward the group, a family member told The Buffalo News after the incident.
Defense attorneys Joel L. Daniels and Jim Faso declined to comment.
Smith will continue to be held in the Erie County Holding Center without bail. Wolfgang scheduled Smith’s sentencing for March 14.
Smith pleaded guilty without any promises made regarding a sentence.
“We’re going to be considering all options available at the sentencing time,” Wolfgang said.
Smith has a prior DWI record; he was convicted in a 1997 incident on Grand Island and pleaded guilty to felony DWI in October 2000 in North Tonawanda, according to court records. Smith also was convicted of drunken driving in September 2005, in Belmont County, Ohio.