Montgomery County

Court action ahead in crash that killed trooper

A grand jury has concluded its review of the 2013 crash that killed a state trooper and resulted in
Caleb, Amy and David Cunniff are seen on their front porch in Duanesburg in this Aug. 17, 2011 photo.
Caleb, Amy and David Cunniff are seen on their front porch in Duanesburg in this Aug. 17, 2011 photo.

Two lawsuits are under way against the truck driver whose speeding rig slammed into a state police patrol car, killing Trooper David Cuniff.

Both the estate of fallen Trooper David Cunniff and the driver he pulled over, Eric Heller, have filed lawsuits against the Canadian truck driver and the company the trucker worked for, court filings indicate.

Meanwhile, a Montgomery County Court grand jury has met to consider evidence in the case and has concluded its work, Montgomery County District Attorney Jed Conboy said Friday.

He declined, however, to elaborate.

“The case was presented to the grand jury,” he said. “I cannot make any comment on what, if any, action the grand jury has taken.”

Attorneys familiar with grand jury procedures in general, but not involved in the Cunniff case, said that when a grand jury votes to indict, it is secret until the defendant is brought into court.

Cunniff, 35, of Duanesburg, died Dec. 17, 2013, of injuries suffered in the on-duty crash the previous day in Amsterdam. He had just pulled over Heller for speeding on the Thruway when a tractor-trailer driven in the left lane by Gary R. Blakley of Ontario swerved across the right lane and slammed into Cunniff’s patrol car and Heller’s vehicle. Both cars were parked along the right shoulder of the road near the Exit 27 off-ramp when they were struck, police said.

Cunniff’s car was idling and his emergency lights were flashing at the time.

He was a nine-year veteran of the state police. He was survived by his wife, Amy, and their two sons.

Blakley was not charged at the time and was allowed to return to Canada.

The week after the crash, Conboy said investigators wanted to see results of blood tests conducted on Blakley and conduct further interviews. The results of those tests and interviews have not been announced.

The two lawsuits filed in the case allege that Blakley was negligent.

Attorneys listed for each of the parties named in the suits did not return calls for comment Friday. Both suits were filed in U.S. District Court in Albany, the one by the Cunniff estate in September and the one by Heller on Thursday.

Named as defendants in both suits are Blakley and his Ontario-based trucking company, GW McPherson Trucking.

The suit brought by Cunniff’s estate alleges Blakley was negligent in multiple ways in operating his Freightliner truck, including failing to keep his vehicle in his designated lane and “failing to observe the presence of vehicles on the shoulder of the highway.”

Heller’s suit alleges Blakley was “careless and negligent.”

Heller, 58, of Stony Creek, had to be extricated from his vehicle and was taken to Albany Medical Center for treatment. His suit cites “severe and painful” injuries, some of them permanent.

The suits contend that Blakley’s employer, GW McPherson, is responsible for Blakley’s actions.

Cunniff’s estate is seeking unspecified damages. It is represented by attorney Thomas DiNovo.

Heller’s suit seeks specific damages totalling $550,000. He is being represented by attorney Joseph Brennan.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

Leave a Reply