A retired tool-and-die maker accused of driving while intoxicated in connection with the Nov. 27 crash that killed West Seneca Democratic Chairman Daniel S. McParlane pleaded not guilty Tuesday in West Seneca Town Court and was released without bail.
Robert J. Styn Jr., 62, of West Seneca, entered the plea before Town Justice Jeffrey M. Harrington. Styn was dressed in a suit and appeared with attorney James M. Vallone. The case received its first public attention since Styn told police that McParlane’s car spun into his lane early on the morning of Nov. 27 and caused a T-bone collision.
Styn was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated in the hours after the crash, which occurred on Indian Springs Road near the intersection with Mineral Springs Road.
Styn registered a blood alcohol reading of 0.21 percent, according to court records, well above the legal threshold.
The defendant offered no comments during the proceeding other than to answer procedural questions. He did not speak to reporters outside the courtroom. But Vallone told the judge and reporters that his client was a volunteer firefighter who worked for 30 years as a tool-and-die maker at the General Motors Delavan Avenue plant, had voluntarily shown up in court and posed no risk of flight.
Assistant District Attorney Kelley A. Omel asked the judge to impose $5,000 bail. But Harrington granted Vallone’s motion to release his client on his own recognizance pending another court appearance Jan. 14.
Vallone also noted that Styn has not been charged with any other crime, like vehicular manslaughter charges, that are often lodged in fatal crashes involving drunken driving. He said he has not seen any results from an autopsy or toxicology tests performed on the victim to determine whether McParlane may also have been drinking on the night of the crash.
“The only two charges confronting my client are the DWI, and that’s the case we intend to try,” he said, adding that only the district attorney can answer whether any further charges are pending. Vallone also said he will seek McParlane’s toxicology test results, if necessary, but questioned whether they will be “applicable” if more serious charges are lodged.
Accident reports obtained by The Buffalo News through a Freedom of Information request show Styn told police he was traveling west on Indian Church Road shortly after midnight when McParlane spun into his lane of traffic. Styn said he tried to veer to the right but could not avoid the collision.
An accident diagram and police reports indicate Styn’s car smashed into the passenger side of McParlane’s car, deploying air bags in both vehicles.
The reports also reveal McParlane, 33, an Erie County sheriff’s deputy, was not wearing a seat belt, was unconscious and bleeding severely from the head when Union Fire Company volunteers arrived, freed him from his car and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation until an ambulance crew arrived.
Police documents also revealed that Michelle M. Gilson, 54, of Buffalo, a passenger in Styn’s car, was taken to Mercy Hospital for treatment.
The documents further show McParlane was pronounced dead shortly before 1 a.m.
Since the accident, West Seneca police have not answered questions regarding McParlane, such as whether he had been drinking and, if so, how much. Earlier in the evening of Nov. 27, McParlane attended a meeting of the Erie County Democratic Town Chairs Association in Curly’s Restaurant, Lackawanna and then met with Legislator-elect Patrick B. Burke in a South Buffalo pub. They also have not answered any questions about what may have caused McParlane to veer into Styn’s path, though their documents report a “moderate” snowfall, and their only public statement on the accident, on Nov. 27, indicates weather conditions may have contributed to the collision. Details of the crash were disclosed more than two weeks later, only after the West Seneca Police Department required The News to submit the Freedom of Information request. The documents’ disclosure made public for the first time several details, including the recovery of “black box” devices from both vehicles that could reveal important information relating to speed and other factors.