Thick fog was rolling off the Great Sacandaga Lake during the pre-dawn hours on May 22, 2011, as Brian Beardsley navigated his Nissan Titan south on County Route 110 in Broadablin.
The off-duty veteran state trooper had about “three or four beers at a friend’s house” an hour before getting behind the wheel that morning, he told an administrative law judge last year. And the road conditions were anything but ideal.
“It would be clear for a little bit and foggy for a bit,” he recalled during the state Department of Motor Vehicles hearing in January 2012.
Then Beardsley said he spotted a sneaker in the roadway near some other debris peeking through the fog. He told the judge he was driving below the posted 45 mph speed limit as he tried straddling what was in the road.
“I passed over,” he said. “I didn’t hear an impact.”
Beardsley said he stopped a short distance ahead and told his girlfriend — a passenger in his truck — to call for help from her cellphone at 2:41 a.m. Beardsley doubled back to the place where he saw the sneaker and found the crushed body of 29-year-old Chad Finch.
“Mr. Finch was deceased and appeared to have been that way for quite a while,” Beardsley said in his testimony. “There was every kind of fragment and part on the roadway you could imagine.”
But instead of waiting by his grisly discovery, Beardsley drove back to his home in Amsterdam, leaving emergency responders to search for Finch along the rural road. Unable to locate the body, dispatchers called his girlfriend’s cellphone back three times in hopes of getting more details.
Beardsley was later charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident but ultimately absolved of wrongdoing by a Fulton County grand jury in September 2011. But he’s since been ordered to pay a $75,000 settlement through his insurance company to the mothers of Finch’s two young children to resolve a civil action against him.
The settlement reached with Lisa Chamberlain, guardian of 11-year-old Chad Finch Jr., and Megen VanNostrand, guardian of 9-year-old Alexia Finch, was approved in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County this spring. As part of the agreement, the law firm representing the two mothers received $29,306 in costs; a funeral home that had services for Finch received $2,014; Finch’s mother Brenda will receive $240 for other costs associated with the services; and his children will be the beneficiaries of $43,438 kept in an escrow account until a surrogate court determines how it should be distributed.
Robert Bruschini, the lawyer representing the two women, did not return several calls for comment.
Beardsley was suspended from the state police two days after the accident and later resigned from the force. He has been working part-time for the Canajoharie Police Department since December.
The initial lawsuit filed last year claimed that Beardsley acted negligently when the pickup truck he was driving struck Finch about a third of a mile from the intersection with Vunk Road. Finch, who was described as a pedestrian in the lawsuit, was lying in the road.
An autopsy determined Finch died of multiple blunt force trauma injuries to his head and chest. Finch was also found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.24 percent — four times the legal limit to drive an automobile.
Police traced the 911 call that morning to Beardsley’s girlfriend and confiscated his truck in Amsterdam within 90 minutes of the accident being reported. After an inspection, it was determined that his pickup truck had run over Finch, leaving blood and tissue on its undercarriage.
Beardsley later recounted the moments after the accident before the administrative law judge and how his girlfriend waited in the truck as he went to check on the body in the road. He also said he mentioned they should probably stay by the body, but his girlfriend wanted to leave.
“I indicated to her that maybe we should stay [until] police arrived,” Beardsley said. “She said she wasn’t really comfortable with that. There wasn’t really much that we could do, and I agreed with her.”