The Lancaster man who struck and killed a Depew teenager last July as she waited at a village bus stop will not spend any time in jail following his guilty plea to reckless driving, his attorney told The Buffalo News.
Radames Candelaria, 35, could have been given as much as 30 days in jail but got a sentencing commitment of probation for his plea to the misdemeanor charge, attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said.
Candelaria told police that he lost control of his sport utility vehicle and went off the road, crashing into 18-year-old Ashley Creighton and, later, a pizzeria on the other side of the road, because he fell asleep at the wheel following an 11½-hour, overnight work shift.
“My client agreed to accept responsibility for falling asleep and is thankful to avoid jail,” Eoannou said.
Candelaria will be formally sentenced May 15 in Depew Village Court.
Gail Thompson, Creighton’s legal guardian, said she is glad Candelaria pleaded guilty but she believes falling asleep at the wheel is dangerous driving behavior that should be punished more severely.
“I have so many mixed emotions,” Thompson said, adding, “It’s like a bittersweet cookie.”
The crash took place early on July 30 as Candelaria drove home from work on Broadway. Creighton, a Depew High School senior, was waiting on the north side of Broadway near South Kokomo Street to catch a bus.
Candelaria’s SUV drove onto the sidewalk and crashed into Creighton, killing her instantly, before drifting across to the other side of Broadway and smashing into Penora’s Pizza. Candelaria told police investigators, and repeated in a later interview with The News, that he didn’t remember anything about the crash until he woke up after his SUV came to a halt in the restaurant.
Candelaria has a lengthy record of convictions for minor criminal offenses.
He also had a small amount of methadone in his system at the time of the crash, part of the treatment for his heroin addiction, but he said it wasn’t enough to impair his driving.
Police never charged Candelaria, and Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III opted to submit the evidence in the case for review by a grand jury. Because grand jurors didn’t indict on a more serious charge, the case was returned to Village Court.
Candelaria was arraigned in December on a charge of reckless driving as well as the traffic violations of speeding, failure to keep right and driving on a sidewalk. The prosecutor in the case is Kelley A. Omel, head of the Vehicular Crimes Bureau of the District Attorney’s Office.
Eoannou emphasized Candelaria’s cooperation with investigators and his remorse for Creighton’s death.
Thompson said she understands that Candelaria didn’t mean to hurt Creighton, but she believes drivers shouldn’t get behind the wheel if they are at risk of falling asleep.
She said she plans to work to get the law changed so that the punishment for drowsy driving better matches its sometimes-fatal consequences, and she hopes the State Department of Motor Vehicles will revoke Candelaria’s license.