BROOKSVILLE — By the time Noah Dettloff heard the booms, it was too late to warn his co-worker.
Dettloff and 28-year-old Steven Thompson were painting traffic lines in a closed westbound lane of Spring Hill Drive near the Suncoast Parkway about noon on Nov. 8, 2011, when Thompson asked Dettloff to get something from their truck. The crew had blocked the lane with orange barrels topped with flashing lights.
"I heard the barrels get hit, and when I turned, (Thompson) was already flying through the air," Dettloff testified Tuesday morning in Hernando County Circuit Court.
Karen Macchione's silver Dodge Ram pickup had veered from an open lane, crashed through the barrels and struck Thompson as he was marking the pavement with chalk. The force of the impact knocked off his pants and shoes and threw him into the eastbound lanes. Thompson died a short time later at Spring Hill Regional Hospital.
During opening statements Tuesday morning in Macchione's DUI manslaughter trial, Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto told a jury that Macchione should not have been driving that day. The Brooksville resident, now 47, had a prescription for methadone, and blood tests showed the amount in her blood was within the therapeutic range.
But witnesses said Macchione seemed unsteady on her feet, and she nodded off as she was being interviewed by investigators.
"She was falling asleep shortly after hitting somebody on the side of the road," Catto said. "The law is you should not drive a vehicle under the influence to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired. There is no law that says if you have a prescription you can take as much as you want and drive and let the chips fall where they may."
Defense attorney Scott Smith told jurors that Macchione suffers from a variety of health issues but did not take her methadone that day. A witness who saw her at the post office shortly before the crash said Macchione did not seem impaired. Just before the crash, Smith said, Macchione heard her cellphone ring.
"She looked down momentarily and she felt her truck pull to the side, and she felt an impact, and stopped her truck as soon as possible," Smith said.
If convicted, Macchione faces up to 15 years in prison. The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.
Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.