John J. Ronk, 41, of New Salem Road, Esopus, entered a guilty plea to first-degree vehicular manslaughter in Ulster County Court today.
Ronk admitted driving a Nissan Xterra SUV while intoxicated and causing the death of a bicyclist, Brian Jones, on September 14, 2017, at about 7:30 p.m. Jones was the father to six children. Ronk’s blood alcohol content was .32.
Evidence collected at the scene by the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police revealed that Ronk crossed over the double yellow center lines on New Salem Road and struck the rear tire of Jones’ bicycle, causing Jones to be thrown from his bike and killed. After striking Jones, two wheels from Ronk’s vehicle drove up on a guiderail for several feet before correcting and striking a telephone pole. Ronk attempted to flee the scene on foot. A passing motorist called 911 and alerted the Sheriff’s Office, who apprehended Ronk within minutes of the crash.
Ronk admitted drinking several large cans of beer with high alcohol content prior to driving. Ronk also stated that he was on his way to the store to buy more beer.
Ronk is scheduled to be sentenced on July 26. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five to fifteen years in state prison.
This wasn’t the first time the driver had been convicted of killing someone while behind the wheel. Ronk was convicted of vehicular manslaughter in Dutchess County in November 2000. State records show that he served 18 months of a one-to-three-year sentence in state prison before he was released in July 2002.