Driver says he’s innocent of allegations

JOHNSTOWN – The motorist involved in an accident that killed a bicyclist two months ago is speaking out, proclaiming his innocence.

John P. Damphier, 48, of 10 McKinley Ave. – a salesman for Cranesville Block Co. of Amsterdam – was behind the wheel of a pickup involved in a fatal June 25 collision with the bicyclist, Edward Lakata, also of Johnstown.

Damphier was not ticketed by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, but he is being sued by Lakata’s family in state Supreme Court. The lawsuit claims Damphier has a “propensity” to drive while impaired by prescription drugs and while using a cell phone.

In a separate matter, Damphier was arrested by the sheriff’s office at 1 p.m. July 30 and charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, failure to keep right, improper lane usage and possession of a controlled substance outside its original container. Deputies charged Damphier on County Highway 107 in Perth.

“I feel I’m 100 percent innocent” in both cases, Damphier said Friday.

He said he was given a breath test in the Perth incident and passed, but he was detained by authorities for four hours with no reason.

Damphier said he was neither under the influence of prescription drugs nor using his cell phone in either incident.

He wouldn’t say who his lawyer is, but said he will be contacting counsel soon as he plans his own legal recourse.

The fatal accident occurred at 9:26 a.m. June 25 while the 55-year-old Lakata was riding his bike northwest on Route 29A, the lawsuit says. Damphier was operating his 2008 Chevy pickup truck in the same direction while working as a salesman for Cranesville Block.

Lakata was riding his bicycle from his home in the city to his camp at Caroga Lake, family members said. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Department did not ticket Damphier in the accident, which occurred near Skunk Hollow Road.

Damphier said Lakata had headphones on and was “oblivious” to his surroundings as he was riding up Route 29A.

“He turned around and looked down at his wheel [prior to impact],” Damphier said. “The handlebars of his bike were imbedded into the hood of my truck.”

He said Lakata did “a complete [U-turn] in front of me.”

“I would like to know what was in his system,” he said.

Damphier said he has had spinal problems for many years and has had to take pain medicines. He said that he drives quite a bit for his job as a salesman and has a good work-attendance record. He said he never had any controlled substances on him during either the Lakata accident or the Perth incident.

He said only takes blood-pressure medicine, which doesn’t impair him but merely calms him down when his blood pressure gets too high.

He also says it is not illegal to drive while on the painkiller Lortab, which he has taken.

Damphier said he has been chastised and the Lakata accident is “making me out to be a monster.”

He said has had problems sleeping and his blood pressure is higher again.

Damphier criticized the way the Perth accident was investigated by the sheriff’s office.

Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey couldn’t be reached Friday.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at