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North Huntingdon man held for trial in bus crash

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

After more than two hours of testimony on Tuesday, District Judge Helen Kistler ordered a North Huntingdon man to stand trial for allegedly striking a school bus in Penn Township, then discarding suspected heroin and drug paraphernalia.

Andrew M. Slywczuk, 29, is charged with possession with intent to deliver, drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving while operating privilege is suspended or revoked, reckless driving and two counts of driving under the influence.

School bus driver Mary Beth Pcolar testified that she was driving a student on Pleasant Valley Road the morning of Feb. 27.

“As I was coming to the top of the hill, there was a car in my lane driving southbound. I hit my brake and I tried to swerve to miss him,” Pcolar said.

She identified Slywczuk, who wore a blue jumpsuit, glasses and red sneakers in court, as the other driver. The student aboard the bus was not injured, police said previously.

Pcolar said she watched Slyw-czuk step out of the car and walk over to the guard rail and over the hill.

Penn Township Officer Lewis Lock testified that he found sealed stamp bags over an embankment at the scene.

“I went to a portion of the guard rail near the crash scene and searched that area on the ground and found drug paraphernalia, including a spoon and hypodermic needle ... and four bundles of heroin,” Lock said.

The packaging of stamp bags found at the scene matched the packaging of the bags found with Slyw-czuk, Lock said. Penn Township Officer Sean Foor said he found two empty stamp bags of heroin in Slywczuk's wallet.

“I spoke with the defendant after he exited the ambulance. And speaking with the defendant, I noticed signs of impairment,” Foor said, citing droopy eyes, glassy eyes, slurred speech.

Police allege in an affidavit of probable cause that Slyw-czuk suffered minor injuries in the crash.

Foor said he arrested Slyw-czuk for suspicion of driving under the influence, and the police department summoned a state police drug recognition expert to Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg for evaluation.

Blood was drawn three hours after the accident report, Foor said. Lab results showed “a high level of morphine in the defendant's blood,” Foor said.

“(Slywczuk) advised that he had picked up the narcotics in Pitcairn for $300. He said that was not all for him,” Foor said.

Foor said Slywczuk told him he needed the money to buy a new house.

“He admitted that he had used heroin that morning,” Lock said.

In Tuesday's court hearing, the bus driver was not originally called as a witness.

“The reason the bus driver wasn't here was because she was working,” Jennifer Dupilka, an attorney for the commonwealth, said. If the court recessed, Dupilka said she would ask the bus driver to attend the hearing.

The court recessed for about 30 minutes to wait for the school bus driver.

Before that, Eric Jackson Lurie, Slywczuk's attorney, asked the judge to dismiss the case.

“Not one person said (Slywczuk) was driving. They had the availability of victims. They can't get his blood (tested) within two hours,” Lurie said. “I'm going to ask that you dismiss the entire case.”

In addition, Slywczuk did not have scales, a weapon or large amounts of money, Lurie said.

“We don't have possession with intent to deliver,” Lurie said.

In remarks after the hearing, Lurie said Slywczuk is “a veteran who's done multiple tours of duty.” He became disabled jumping from a helicopter while on duty and was honorably and medically discharged, Lurie said.

Kistler said Slywczuk will be remanded to Westmoreland County jail and then released to a VA Hospital for an inpatient stay once the hospital has space.

A formal arraignment is scheduled for June 12, online court records show.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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