Eldridge pleads guilty in crash
PENN YAN—Steven A. Eldridge, 42, 110 E. Main
St. Penn Yan, pled guilty in Yates County Court to aggravated vehicular homicide (a class B felony), aggravated vehicular assault (a class C felony), driving while ability impaired by drugs (DWAI), and reckless driving, Wednesday, Feb. 22.
The charges are in connection to the July 19, 2011, multi-vehicle fatal collision on Pre-Emption Road in Benton that resulted in six deaths. According to District Attorney Jason Cook, Eldridge admitted in court to driving a 1995 Oldsmobile car southbound on Pre-Emption Road and that he had taken cocaine and prescription drugs in Rochester on the day of the crash. The press release stated Eldridge said he could not see ahead of any oncoming traffic, but still drove past a farm tractor in a no-passing zone.
Cook said this resulted in a head-on collision with a northbound passenger van, which was then sent spinning into the path of the tractor. Reports said that five passengers died instantly and a sixth passed away a week later at Strong Memorial Hospital.
Authorities explained Eldridge was arrested the day of the accident and charged with multiple counts of criminal negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and several other traffic infractions. Cook said Eldridge had been indicted on 18 counts, Sept. 22, by Yates County Grand Jury.
"In pleading guilty to the charges, Eldridge admitted to the court that he understood the criminal charges presently against him and also he withdrew his previous defense of having a mental disease or defect," said Cook. "Eldridge also admitted that he has a prior felony conviction, from Monroe County in 2006 for grand larceny third degree, involving the theft of a police car. For the crime, Eldridge had been sentenced to a term of 2 to 4 years in state prison."
"As a result of his guilty plea to the top counts of the indictment, Eldridge will be sentenced as a second felony offender to an indeterminate term of 12 to 24 years in state prison on the aggravated vehicular homicide charge, 7.5 to 15 years on the aggravated vehicular assault charge, and one year each on the DWAI drugs and reckless driving charges, all to run concurrently," said Cook. "After his guilty plea, Eldridge was remanded to jail without bail."
Eldridge will be sentenced in Yates County Court on March 20, at 9:30 a.m.