Teacher: 'I just made a mistake'
A Seneca Valley Middle School special education teacher who nearly drowned when his car crashed into the Connoquenessing Creek faced a hearing on Tuesday on drunken driving charges.
“I'm not a bad guy. I just made a mistake,” a tearful Henry “Leo” Stefanacci said Thursday during a phone interview from his Zelienople home. “I'm just so embarrassed. It's tough on me and my family.”
Stefanacci had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent, beyond the legal limit in Pennsylvania of 0.08 percent, when his car veered off Halstead Boulevard in Zelienople on March 3, according to a criminal complaint Zelienople police filed.
Four teenagers from the Zelienople area spotted Stefanacci's overturned vehicle and called 911. Firefighters rescued him. Stefanacci said he might have been in the frigid water for 40 minutes before help arrived.
In a March 21 interview, Stefanacci said he had been a nonbeliever but found God after his rescue.
This is the second time in two years that Stefanacci has faced drunken driving charges.
A judge sentenced him to serve a year of probation when he was accused of drunken driving in Cranberry on Sept. 4, 2011. Stefanacci in June entered the county's first-time offender program. He faced a probation violation hearing May 31 because of the latest charges.
Stefanacci, 48, is going through speech therapy as part of his recovery from the crash.
“It's going OK,” said Stefanacci, who is on medical leave from the district. “This has been a little bit of a setback. The stress isn't helping much.”
Seneca Valley Superintendent Tracy Vitale did not return a phone call seeking comment.
“I just want to teach. I just love to do that,” Stefanacci said.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.