Continuance denied in U.S. 20 fatal case

Tron Gorbonosenko

MICHIGAN CITY — The judge denied a continuance Thursday to the former La Porte County paramedic charged with killing two local business owners in a drunk driving accident in October.

Beginning May 7, Tron Gorbonosenko, 40, will face a jury in La Porte Superior Court 1 on four felony charges: Two counts of operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of more than 0.15 percent as Level 4 felonies, and two counts of reckless homicide as Level 5 felonies.

Gorbonosenko’s attorney, Larry Rogers, asked the judge to postpone the trial because he wants additional time to depose multiple La Porte police officers who allegedly came into contact with Gorbonosenko approximately 90 minutes before the accident occurred.

Rogers also noted as reason for continuance Gorbonosenko’s recent abdominal surgery that left him with a vacuum-assisted closure, or “wound VAC,” as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

Judge Michael Bergerson denied Rogers’ request.

Gorbonosenko is scheduled for a pre-jury conference on April 26.

If convicted, he faces up to 36 years in the Indiana Department of Correction and up to $40,000 in fines.

He remains free on $25,000 cash bond pending the resolution of his case.

Gorbonosenko’s blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit — 0.17 — when he allegedly crossed the center line of U.S. 20 near Bootjack Road in his car and struck a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction shortly before 8 p.m. on Oct. 6.

He was off-duty and traveling in his personal vehicle, a black Ford Mustang, at the time.

Donald and Angela Kaczmarek, owners of Packman’s Family Pizzeria and occupants of the other vehicle, were killed instantly as a result of blunt force trauma, according to La Porte County Coroner Bob Cutler. Gorbonosenko was air lifted to a South Bend hospital in critical condition.

Crash reconstruction investigators estimate Gorbonosenko was traveling between 55 and 61 miles per hour when he struck the Kaczmareks’ vehicle.

The victims’ family has hired South Bend-based law office Foley & Small to represent them in the wake of the accident. In February, their attorney sent a tort claim notice that accuses three La Porte police officers of “failing to perform their statutory and administrative duties” that potentially could have prevented the fatal crash.

Approximately 90 minutes prior to the collision, a concerned person contacted the La Porte Police about a potential drunk driver. The caller allegedly saw Gorbonosenko strike a pole and a parked car in downtown La Porte before parking and exiting his black Mustang and walking into a martial arts school.

The officers reportedly arrived minutes later, spoke for several minutes with Gorbonosenko, inspected his vehicle, and left. They apparently did not document the interaction.

Now, the tort claim notice estimates the Kaczmareks’ estate is owed $700,000 in damages.

The document was mailed to nine local and state recipients, including La Porte Mayor Mark Krentz, La Porte City Attorney Nick Otis, La Porte County Attorney Doug Biege, the La Porte City Council and the La Porte County Council.

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