GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A man was sentenced Tuesday to at least 12 years in prison on third-degree murder, drunken driving and other charges for a wrong-way crash that killed a western Pennsylvania police officer.
Clair Fink III was sentenced by a Westmoreland County judge for the 2015 accident.
The 33-year-old Ligonier man pleaded guilty in September in the head-on crash that killed Ligonier Township Police Lt. Eric Eslary in May 2015. The crash left Eslary’s police dog injured.
Fink and a co-worker had spent the night drinking before the crash.
Police contend Fink drank seven to nine 16-ounce beers from an 18-pack he split with a co-worker after they clocked out of their job at a swimming pool installation business around 7 p.m. on May 4, 2015. Fink was driving a work van home more than 20 miles away, drinking and stopping at a strip club with his co-worker, before unwittingly driving east in the westbound lanes of the divided Route 30 for about 4 miles and smashing head-on into Eslary’s patrol SUV at about 2 a.m. on May 5, 2015.
Fink has apologized to Eslary’s family.
“There’s nothing that words could describe what I feel or that I could do to change it,” Fink told reporters while in tears after his arraignment. “But I mean I am sorry and I wish I could go back and change time.”
Eslary’s widow, then a 911 dispatcher and now the county’s emergency management spokeswoman, is raising six children in their blended family.
Fink’s sentence is 12 to 30 years in prison. The third-degree murder charge, the most serious Fink faced, carried up to 40 years in prison.