Feura Bush woman convicted in fatal bike accident

A Feura Bush woman was sentenced to serve six months in jail after being convicted of fatally injuring a Slingerlands cyclist in 2006 while driving under the influence of Ambien, a prescribed sleeping medication.

Darlene Kawczak, 52, is the first person in the state to receive a jail term for driving with Ambien in her system.

Kawczak was driving along Route 32 in Bethlehem during the morning hours of July 3, 2006, last year when she struck and killed 49-year-old Joel Melnikoff as he was riding his bicycle along the side of the road.

Police initially charged Kawczak with driving while intoxicated because she admitted to drinking several beers prior to the crash. Tests later revealed Kawczak had twice the prescribed amount of the sleeping pill Ambien in her system. Severe confusion is a known side effect of Ambien.

Kawczak was also given five years probation and will have to perform 160 hours of community service.

Melnikoff was married with two children. A statement was read during sentencing in Albany County Court on Thursday, Aug. 16, by Albany County Stop DWI coordinator Lenny Crouch on behalf of Melnikoff's widow, Susan.

Judge Stephen Herrick said this is the first conviction of anyone in the state under the influence of a sleeping aid.


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