Witnesses testify about fatal crash that killed 25-year-old man in 2010


PITTSFIELD -- Witnesses recalled the moment they saw a black Hyundai Sonata veer into oncoming traffic on South Street and the head-on collision that took the life of a 25-year-old man the afternoon of Oct. 23, 2010.

"There was a cloud of debris -- plastic, glass -- it went up into the air," witness Lyndon Moors told the jury.

"It happened in the blink of an eye," another witness, Richard Goudey, testified.

"It happened in an instant," Clarence Fanto said on the witness stand. "I was stunned and horrified."

On Wednesday, during the first day of testimony in the Berkshire Superior Court trial of 54-year-old Douglas F. Guinan of Pittsfield, eight people told the jury what they saw while they were heading about their business, picking up spouses from work, on vacation or heading home after a movie.

The prosecutor, Second Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Robert W. Kinzer III, said that Guinan was under the influence of alcohol and hydrocodone, a painkiller, when he drove directly 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. The passenger in her car, Michael F. Ashline, 25, of Pittsfield, died.

Guinan was also seriously injured in the collision.

Now Guinan is on trial for motor vehicle homicide and driving under the influence of prescription drugs.

Guinan's attorney, Peter C. Alessio, blames the accident on a defect in the electronic steering system of Guinan's 2011 Sonata. Alessio said there was a recall of Hyundai vehicles because of vibration and pulling in the steering wheel.

Alessio also explained that Guinan's behavior, which made hospital staff think he was intoxicated, was actually related to traumatic brain injury.

Fanto, who was in a car with his wife and child and heading south for home, described an explosion and a "puff of smoke" when Guinan's car slammed into a Ford Focus that was also southbound.

Witness Judith Iaccarino testified she was in the car directly behind Guinan.

"[Guinan's car] looked like he was trying to take a left, but there was nowhere to turn left," Iaccarino recalled. "I thought he was going to beat the traffic."

Many witnesses described the "massive" damage to the front ends of both cars, and how Rudd was hysterical, while both Ashline and Guinan appeared to be unconscious.

While many of the witnesses said it didn't appear that Guinan's car was driving erratically before the sudden left-hand turn, two women, Alisha and Kathleen Barrett, who were traveling in the same vehicle, said they saw Guinan's car hit a street curb before the accident.

Jeremy Van Deusen, one of the paramedics who responded to the crash, said he noticed a "moderate" smell of alcohol on Guinan as he was being rushed to the hospital.

Pittsfield Police Officer Jason Breault said that empty beer cans were found in Guinan's car following the accident.

The trial continues today and is expected to go to the jury on Monday.

To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
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