Teacher faces DUI charge in accident
May 6, 2013
ZELIENOPLE — A special education teacher in the Seneca Valley School District faces a hearing this week on charges in a suspected drunken driving crash that nearly cost him his life. Henry Leo Stefanacci, 48, was allegedly impaired by alcohol about 9 p.m. March 3 when he lost control of his car on Halstead Boulevard and plunged in Connoquenessing Creek, according to Zelienople police. Trapped in the overturned and partially submerged car for about 30 minutes before rescuers pulled him from the freezing water, Stefanacci apparently went into cardiac arrest and developed pneumonia. He still suffers lingering effects from the crash. But Stefanacci recently learned he now has criminal problems, too. In court documents filed earlier this month, police disclosed that toxicology reports showed Stefanacci’s blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent. A level of 0.08 percent is considered intoxicated under state law. Police on April 10 charged Stefanacci with driving under the influence and careless driving. A preliminary hearing is set for 10:45 a.m. Tuesday at the office of District Judge Wayne Seibel in Evans City. Investigators said Stefanacci was northbound on Halstead Boulevard near the Schrieber Industrial Park when he lost control of his 2002 Toyota Camry while traveling around a bend. The car went off the road and plunged down a 15-foot embankment into the creek. “It looks like he went straight off the road,” Zelienople Police Chief Jim Miller told the Butler Eagle that day. “It looks like he didn’t try to stop.” The car rolled onto its roof in about 3 feet of water. Stefanacci was unable to get out. No one saw the crash and authorities do not know when it happened. A passing motorist called 911 at 9:18 p.m. when he stopped and saw the car in the creek. The Butler County’s water rescue team worked for some time to get Stefanacci out of the vehicle. Rescuers later told police they detected a “strong odor” of alcohol coming from Stefanacci. He was taken to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh and admitted in critical condition. Stefanacci, during a recent interview with the Butler Eagle to discuss his recovery, said he suffered no permanent brain or heart damage, but has lingering problems with speech and cognitive issues He completed occupational and physical therapy sessions but continues speech therapy and was to begin cognitive therapy.