Saturday January 26, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- A state police accident investigator on Thursday told a Berkshire Superior Court jury in a vehicular homicide case that he found no defects in the car driven by a man who crashed into oncoming traffic, killing a 25-year-old man in October 2010.

Trooper Michael George took the stand on Thursday in the trial of Douglas F. Guinan, of Pittsfield, who is facing two felonies in connection with the fatal accident on South Street in Pittsfield.

"There was no pre-crash defects that would have contributed to the crash," George told the jury.

The prosecutor, Second Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Robert W. Kinzer III, alleges Guinan was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs when he drove into the path of a car driven by Nicole A. Rudd, 24, near the Berkshire Life Insurance Co. building at 700 South St. (Route 7 and 20). Rudd was injured in the crash while her passenger, Michael F. Ashline, 25, of Pittsfield, died. Guinan was also seriously injured in the accident.

Guinan’s attorney, Peter C. Alessio, blames the crash on a defect in the electronic steering system of Guinan’s 2011 Hyundai Sonata. There was a recall of Hyundai vehicles because of vibration and pulling in the steering wheel, according to the attorney.

George, a member of the state police collision analysis and accident reconstruction team, as well as a certified master auto technician, said he looked at the parts of the steering system involved in the recall and determined they weren’t defective. George also went over the brakes, suspension system and tires and determined they had all been in good working order before the crash.

The second part of the recall notice, said the witness, dealt with updating the electronic steering system’s software.

George said the electronic steering system was not capable of taking control of the steering wheel but only aids the driver with turning the wheel.

Under cross-examination by Alessio, the trooper said that he never directly observed the software updating process for Sonatas, didn’t personally contact the Hyundai corporation about the recall -- although he went to two dealerships, and admitted there could have been damage to the electronic system because of the crash.

The case, before Judge Daniel A. Ford, continues today.