State: BAC at least 0.15 in fatal crash

November 17, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – The jury viewed toxicology results and crash reconstruction photos Friday in the case against Tron E. Gorbonosenko, a former La Porte County paramedic charged with killing two people in a drunk driving crash in 2017.

Sheila Arnold, forensic toxicologist from the Indiana Department of Toxicology, testified in La Porte Superior Court 1 that vials of Gorbonosenko’s blood received by her office tested positive for alcohol at a concentration of 0.12 percent, higher than the legal limit of 0.08.

Because the blood was drawn about 3 hours and 20 minutes after the crash, Arnold provided a range of what Gorbonosenko’s BAC could have been at the time of the collision, taking into account variables like gender, weight, possible rate of elimination and time lapsed.

At best, Arnold told the court, Gorbonosenko’s BAC would have been 0.153 percent; at worst, 0.236 percent.

As for the lorazepam in his system, she said the amount was considered “therapeutic” and not indicative of abuse in number alone.

However, she determined Gorbonosenko had not been prescribed the Schedule IV controlled drug anytime in the last three years; and she did not see on his medical records from the night of the crash that any medical provider had given it to him.

Arnold noted that even low levels of lorazepam can add to the intoxication and impairment of a person who has consumed alcohol.

Defense attorney Larry Rogers presented a hypothetical scenario in which he asked Arnold to calculate what Gorbonosenko’s BAC might have been at the time of the crash if he had downed a pint of whiskey 15 minutes prior.

She said the maximum would have been 0.29 percent if zero elimination had occurred, but noted that would have been an impossible scenario because that number is inconsistent with the blood draws Gorbonosenko underwent at the hospital.

Rogers also questioned the effect on BAC from the length of time between the crash and the blood draw, and between the blood draw and when it was screened more than a month later.

He suggested Gorbonosenko’s blood might have fermented during the latter period, causing an alcohol content to appear where none existed originally.

However, Arnold said that, too, was an impossible scenario – accumulation of ethanol only occurs in blood extracted after a subject has died, or when yeast and sugar are inoculated into the sample.

In Gorbonosenko’s case, she said, only degradation of the alcohol content could have occurred, if any change occurred at all.

When it was the jury’s turn to submit questions, they asked whether unconsciousness or a damaged gastrointestinal tract could affect the rate at which a body absorbs alcohol.

Arnold testified either could slow the absorption rate.

Expert testimony Thursday showed Gorbonosenko was unconscious when first responders arrived at the crash scene on Oct. 6, 2017. And Rogers alluded Friday to the gastrointestinal damage he suffered.

Jurors also heard Friday from Deputy Scott Boswell, crash reconstructionist at the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department.

Boswell, who stopped counting how many fatal crashes he’s worked after about 100, said the crash involving Gorbonosenko is only the second time he’s seen two vehicles collide “headlamp to headlamp.”

In examining the modules that recorded data about Gorbonosenko’s totaled Ford Mustang, Boswell said he could determine the off-duty paramedic never hit his brakes before slamming into the Honda Odyssey minivan containing Donald and Angela Kaczmarek, both of whom were pronounced dead at the scene.

And he said evidence suggests Gorbonosenko had been traveling along Bootjack Road prior to colliding with the Kaczmareks near where that road intersects with U.S. 20.

Forensic pathologist Dr. John Feczko performed an autopsy on Donald Kaczmarek, who had been driving.

Feczko testified Thursday that although the cause of death is listed as “multiple blunt force trauma,” the specific injuries included a head laceration, abrasions to the chest and extremities, multiple rib fractures, punctured and collapsed lungs, blood in the lung cavities, a lacerated liver, lacerated left kidney, severed spine and fractured skull base.

The severed spine, he said, would have killed Donald Kaczmarek instantly; but the skull fracture and lung injuries also could have been fatal.

Donald Kaczmarek had an enlarged heart and coronary arteries blocked up to 50 percent; but Feczko said neither contributed to his death.

Additionally, Donald Kaczmarek’s toxicology screen tested negative for alcohol and other substances known to cause driving impairment.

Amanda Humphrey, a deputy with the La Porte County Coroner’s Office, testified Thursday that she issued the death certificate for Angela Kaczmarek, who did not undergo autopsy because she hadn’t been driving.

Humphrey said she noted several lacerations, chest bruising consistent with seatbelt use, and a broken neck, which she says could have been the specific injury that killed Angela Kaczmarek.

Donald Kaczmarek Jr., eldest of the Kaczmareks’ three sons, testified Friday his parents were healthy and in good spirits before the crash.

The Kaczmareks owned Packman’s Family Pizzeria in La Porte, where Donald Jr. was the on-duty manager that night.

He said his parents were running a delivery to New Carlisle. When they did not return in an hour, Donald Jr. began calling their cell phones.

When he heard from another employee and saw reports on Facebook about the fatal crash, he headed in the direction of his parents’ delivery to see if they’d been involved.

He arrived at the crash site, where, initially, no one would give him any information.

It was too dark to identify his parents’ vehicle, so he left to deliver a pizza before returning to the scene.

He then asked a first responder whether a silver minivan with a Packman’s logo had been involved; and was directed to follow the coroners to La Porte Hospital to identify his parents.

Witness testimony will resume at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Gorbonosenko, free on $25,000 cash bond, faces six felony charges: two each of operating while intoxicated with an alcohol content above 0.15 percent causing death, reckless homicide, and operating while intoxicated causing death. If convicted, he faces up to 48 years in prison.

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