Sugar Grove man sentenced in DUI crash involving buggy
A Sugar Grove man who crashed into a buggy, breaking the neck of the driver, before fleeing the scene is headed to state prison.
Gary L. O’Donnell, 69, was sentenced Friday by President Judge Maureen Skerda on charges including his eighth lifetime DUI.
The incident occurred near Dollar General in Sugar Grove in February 2021
“Due to the impact,” police said in the affidavit of probable cause, “the horse was killed and the buggy was demolished” while the van fled southbound without stopping. “The buggy was discovered to be legally equipped with rear lighting and an orange triangle.”
The affidavit states that the victim initially reported he wasn’t injured but agreed to go to the hospital, where it was discovered that the victim “had suffered broken vertebrae in his neck and a concussion.”
Two witnesses at the scene — who were driving in the opposite direction — reported to police they observed the buggy and “noticed the white van coming south at a high rate of speed.
=“They stated as they got closer to the buggy they veered over to their right to give the southbound white van room to pass the buggy to its left. The witnesses stated the white van never slowed down or braked and just ran right into the back of it and continued on southbound without stopping.”
Chief Public Defender Kord Kinney, O’Donnell’s attorney, said his client recognizes that he is headed to state prison and that drug treatment in the state system might be a best-case scenario.
“How many DUIs does it take,” District Attorney Rob Greene asked, “where malice comes into it. My God, not one, not two….”
Greene said the incident killed the horse and “smashed the buggy to bits” in addition to breaking the driver’s neck, causing him to be unable to work for six to eight months. He said he met with the victim, called him a “great kid” and said that the parties agreed that this plea was the “best way to resolve this case.”
“He is an absolute danger to Warren County, Pennsylvania,” Greene said of McDonnell.
O’Donnell was apologetic when given the chance to speak.
“I’m an alcoholic,” he said. “(I) went nine years this time,” citing depression from the pandemic as a trigger in this instance.
“I did not see the man in the buggy,” he added, saying he believed that he hit a deer. “(I) take full responsibility for what I’ve done. I just want it to stop.”
Skerda said there are “times when full responsibility sounds like what (you’re supposed) to say to a judge,” stressing there is accountability even with a disease like alcoholism.
She said she was concerned that “all of that education, therapy, treatment and support” resulted in him committing “an act that damaged someone severely.”
She then sentenced O’Donnell to 21 to 42 months incarceration, $2,750 in fines and fees, an 18 month license suspension and priority for drug and alcohol treatment in state prison on a count of DUI as well as 18 to 36 months incarceration on a count of accident involving death or personal injury, a felony.
He was also sentenced on three summary charges — $70 each on failure to stop and give information or render aid and failure to notify police and $295 on a count of careless driving – serious bodily injury.