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Metro

Man pleads not guilty in crash that killed man in wheelchair

After last call, paths crossed tragically

WAREHAM — When the town’s nightspots closed Saturday morning, Joshua A. Macro and John F. Vandeusen were among the patrons who stayed until last call.

Macro was at The Fan Club playing pool with his best friend. Less than a mile and a half away, Vandeusen was at Stevie B’s Onset Sports Resort, where he said he drank three to four beers with friends, police said.

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Their paths crossed just after 1 a.m. when police say Vandeusen’s pickup truck struck Macro, who was in a wheelchair being pushed by his friend Ryan Santos in a bike lane. The impact sent Macro, 24, hurtling into the woods, killing him.

On Tuesday, Vandeusen was arraigned in Wareham District Court on charges of motor vehicle homicide while operating under the influence of alcohol, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and a marked lanes violation, officials said.

Defense lawyer Richard Westgate entered not-guilty pleas on Vandeusen’s behalf as 15 supporters looked on. Judge Christopher Welch set bail at $20,000.

“There’s nothing that I can say on behalf of Mr. Vandeusen to take any of this back,” said Westgate. “He’s extremely emotional about the whole thing.”

The crash split Macro’s wheelchair in two, said Assistant Plymouth District Attorney Alex Zane. Macro was pronounced dead at Tobey Hospital in Wareham, police said.

Vandeusen, 28, was arrested at the scene of the crash after he failed a sobriety test. His blood-alcohol level registered .17, more than double the legal limit of .08, and he was described by authorities as smelling like alcohol and having bloodshot, glassy eyes, according to police reports.

Surveillance video from Stevie B’s showed Vandeusen consumed beer and a shot of hard liquor before leaving, according to a report written by State Trooper Joseph A. Kalil.

Stephen Beranger, who owns the sports bar, said the surveillance video shows that Vandeusen was not served too much alcohol.

“He walked in there, and he walked out,” Beranger said. He added that he provided authorities with surveillance video of Vandeusen from inside his establishment.

Westgate said Vandeusen faced a motor vehicle case last year that was dismissed and has no other record.

The crash occurred as Santos and Macro were traveling south on Onset Avenue and facing oncoming traffic, Kalil wrote. Santos, who was also Macro’s roommate, told police they were in the bike lane because the sidewalk had defects that interfered with the wheelchair’s operation.

“Santos stated he was able to jump out of the way, and the truck ran over the victim,” Kalil wrote.

Vandeusen, a carpenter from Middleborough, told police he did not remember striking anything in the road, Kalil wrote.

“I guess my truck had struck him,” Vandeusen is quoted as telling police. Westgate said Vandeusen helped Santos look for Macro in the woods, where police located him.

“By the time they get there, within a few minutes, Mr. Macro’s unresponsive, laying on his back, not responding to anything they’re saying or doing,” Zane said.

Macro, who lived in Wareham, has been in a wheelchair for just under a decade after breaking his back in a dirt bike accident near his home, according to relatives and neighbors.

“He didn’t let his disability stop him,” his stepsister Michelle Norton said Tuesday, as she held a white cross that Macro’s family planned to display.

Macro was a 2008 graduate of Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne, where he participated in an electronics and pre-engineering program, said Superintendent Bob Dutch.

Macro studied engineering at Bristol Community College and worked as a tattoo artist, his family said.

They said that Macro proudly used earnings from his tattoo work to buy a car. “He worked . . . to get it,” said stepbrother Michael Norton Jr.

Macro had two tattoos honoring his family. One, of the word “family,” was on his forearm. The other, on his shoulder, featured a rosary and hands in prayer for a brother who died as a baby, his family said.

Tom Hogan, who lives across the street from Macro’s mother and stepfather, said his 10-year-old daughter, Colleen, is taking his death hard.

“She’s devastated,” he said. “He was over here every other weekend. We told her Josh went to heaven.”

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.
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