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Arrest 'a relief' for son of Rostraver hit-and-run victim

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Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 12:15 p.m.
 

The family of a well-known Rostraver gun shop owner critically injured in a hit-and-run accident expressed relief Monday at the arrest of a township man allegedly behind the wheel.

Byron White, 74, was struck by a vehicle in his driveway along Route 136 early on the evening of Nov. 6.

Township police said Don Charles Eichler, 53, of Salem Church Road, was arraigned before West Newton Judge Charles Christner on charges of accidents involving death or personal injury and several motor vehicle charges.

The accident occurred near White's business, The Gun Rack, which he opened in 1985.

White is paralyzed on his left side because of a series of strokes more than a decade ago, and he uses a wheelchair. He was leaving the shop to head to his nearby home when he was struck.

White remained in critical condition at UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh on Monday, a spokeswoman said.

Michael Sorg said White, his stepfather, raised him since the age of 8.

“It's a relief that (Eichler) is in (jail). ... It does not make the whole situation any better. We are glad they caught him, and he is not out and about, doing any more harm,” Sorg said.

“It does not matter whether my dad was in the middle of the road or in the yard, this guy ran him over and never stopped,” he said.

“My dad, he's in pretty bad shape. If he makes it back to what he has been doing, that will take a lot of prayers. (Tuesday) is a big day. He is going to have surgery. Keep your prayers and thoughts with us. Hopefully, if the surgery goes OK, he has a chance of getting back in his (wheelchair) again,” Sorg said.

“It's been an emotional roller coaster the last couple of weeks. He was not in the best shape to begin with,” he said.

An affidavit of probable cause filed with Christner by Rostraver police Officer Stephen Sholtis noted that parts of the hit-and-run vehicle found at the scene were from a black Nissan Titan. A truck fitting that description, with heavy passenger side damage consistent to the accident, was found at Eichler's address, police said.

Eichler admitted to driving the pickup truck involved in the accident, according to police.

“(Eichler) stated that he thought he hit a deer,” the criminal complaint stated.

The vehicle's registration expired in August 2011, and its inspection expired in September 2010. Police said Eichler could not provide a valid insurance card, and his policy had been canceled.

Christner issued an arrest warrant for Eichler, who was taken into custody without incident at his home.

He was placed in the Westmoreland County jail in lieu of $50,000 bond.

He faces a preliminary hearing before Christner on Nov. 26.

Police said the investigation is ongoing, and additional charges against Eichler are expected.

Common Pleas Judge Debra A. Pezze also issued a bench warrant for Eichler for failure to appear on a prior driving under the influence arrest that occurred in Rostraver on March 20, police said.

Eichler also was charged with public drunkenness on Nov. 13, one week after the accident involving White, after police received a report of a man stumbling while attempting to walk along Route 136 near The Gun Rack.

White's friends and family have stepped up to keep his shop open while he recovers, Sorg said.

White enjoys playing “Pap” to Sorg's 2-year-old daughter, Emmy, he said.

“They get her every Friday or Saturday. Every Tuesday, he calls and says, ‘When are we getting her?'” Sorg said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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