Saltsburg man says he was shoved before fatal crash
A Saltsburg man testified on Tuesday that a front-seat passenger shoved him seconds before his sport utility vehicle careened off the road and struck a tree.
The passenger, 43-year-old Ronald Puzak of Saltsburg, died about four hours later from injuries suffered in the crash.
Police contend Clifford Porterfield, 56, was drunk when he lost control of his SUV, which skidded across the road, scraped a guide rail and went airborne for about 20 feet before it hit a tree.
Porterfield testified on Tuesday during his nonjury trial before Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec on charges of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence and related offenses.
The crash occurred as Porterfield drove his longtime friend, Puzak, home from a bar on May 13, 2011.
“I was angry with him because he tried to quit his job. We went around a bend, he gave me a shove and off the road we went,” Porterfield testified.
Porterfield said he did not initially tell police about the shove from Puzak because he did not want to get his friend in trouble and was concerned how that information would impact an insurance claim.
“If I had known he was dead, I would have told the truth,” Porterfield testified.
Porterfield told Blahovec he was not drunk and had consumed four 16-ounce beers from about 7 p.m. until 2:30 a.m.
A breath test conducted about two hours after the crash found Porterfield's blood-alcohol content to be 0.151 percent, or nearly twice the limit at which a motorist is considered to be intoxicated in Pennsylvania.
Defense attorney Jim Crosby said the breath test was flawed because the machine may have malfunctioned.
But Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda argued the machine worked properly and a blood test taken four hours after the crash confirmed Porterfield was drunk.
Powanda said Porterfield's blood test determined his alcohol level was 0.118 percent.
Puzak died from blunt-force trauma to his chest. Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist, testified Puzak suffered multiple fractures of six ribs and internal bleeding.
Blahovec said he would issue a verdict within five days.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Blount brings back Steelers’ swagger
- Steelers re-sign Keisel to bolster depth on defensive line
- Run game not primary focal point for Steelers
- Steelers are hoping to mirror Eagles’ full-bore, no-huddle offense
- Pitt, Penn State face competition for ticket sales
- Report critical of Pittsburgh police during stop that left man paralyzed
- North Huntingdon EMS gives usual fundraisers the boot with kickball tourney
- Pittsburgh restaurants vie for title at Taste of the Championships
- Steelers sign tackle Gilbert to $30 million deal
- CF McCutchen returns to lineup, but Braves blast fast-fading Pirates
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu not concerned with being old man among safeties