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Alleged alcohol use debated in 2011 Clayton boat crash that seriously injured three

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WATERTOWN — The attorney for a Clayton man charged with boating while intoxicated after being involved in a 2011 accident in which three passengers were seriously injured is seeking to have the man’s blood alcohol content suppressed as evidence in the case.

Peter R. LaGrow, 66, was charged in a grand jury indictment handed up in October with single counts of first-degree vehicular assault, operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol and reckless operation of a vessel, as well as three counts of second-degree vehicular assault.

It is alleged that he was operating a 23-foot boat on the St. Lawrence River off Clayton about 12:45 a.m. on Aug. 21, 2011, when the boat struck a shoal near the Eagle Wing group of shoals and small islands. According to the indictment, Mr. LaGrow was operating the boat with a BAC of 0.11 percent, above the state’s minimum legal level of 0.08 percent to be considered proof of intoxication.

In all, five passengers, as well as Mr. LaGrow, were injured in the collision, including three passengers who were seriously injured. According to the indictment, Mr. LaGrow’s daughter, Wendy Kolceski, Syracuse, and Victoria Falcone, Fayetteville, suffered broken necks. Ms. Kolceski also suffered multiple fractures in her face, lost teeth and had cuts to her mouth and lip, while Ms. Falcone additionally suffered a cut to her kidney and other injuries. A third passenger, Amy E. Donnelly, Syracuse, suffered a cut to her liver, as well as bruises about her head and body. Mr. LaGrow reportedly suffered neck and internal injuries, while two other passengers suffered minor injuries.

It is alleged that Mr. LaGrow caused the accident by operating the boat while intoxicated and by operating the vessel at night without supplemental navigational aids or artificial lights. His attorney, Roscoe A. Eisenhauer, has filed motion in Jefferson County Court trying to have the results of a blood test taken from Mr. LaGrow at Samaritan Medical Center a few hours after the accident suppressed.

During a hearing on the matter Wednesday, Stewart Wilson, a state park police officer, testified he encountered Mr. LaGrow on his boat a short time after the accident and detected an odor of alcohol emanating from him. He accompanied Mr. LaGrow to Samaritan, where he advised him he was being arrested for boating while intoxicated. He said that when he asked Mr. LaGrow if he understood what he had been told, Mr. LaGrow nodded and “mumbled yes.” Mr. Wilson said when he asked Mr. LaGrow if blood could be drawn to determine the presence of alcohol in his system, Mr. LaGrow again nodded and “mumbled yes.”

Mr. Eisenhauer questioned why a form signed by Mr. Wilson and a registered nurse at Samaritan indicating that Mr. LaGrow had agreed to the test also was not signed by Mr. LaGrow, but Mr. Wilson said Mr. LaGrow’s injuries prevented him from signing the form. Mr. Eisenhauer also questioned why a court order was not obtained to acquire the blood test, but, Mr. Wilson said, despite having previously made BWI arrests, he had never sought a court order for approval of a test.

Judge Kim H. Martusewicz gave Mr. Eisenhauer and Assistant District Attorney Walter M. Jeram Jr., who is prosecuting the case, a week to submit written arguments as to the admissibility of the evidence. Mr. Eisenhauer also has filed a motion to have the case dismissed for failure to prosecute it in a timely manner.

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