The families of three of the four Brunswick High School students killed in a June 2012 crash have filed a pair of wrongful death lawsuits against a national railroad operator; officials from Lorain and Medina Counties in Ohio; trustees from Columbia and Liverpool Townships; and the Ohio Department of Transportation.
On June 3, 2012, Jeffrey Chaya, 18-years-old; Blake Bartchak, 17-years-old; Lexi Poerner, 16-years-old; and Kevin Fox, 18-years-old, were all killed in a car crash. Julia Romito was the only survivor.
The Ohio Highway Patrol determined that Chaya’s 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier was traveling at 69 mph when it went airborne over the railroad tracks on Boston Road. The tracks rose abruptly from both sides of the roadway. When the car landed, Chaya lost control, veering right and left before hitting a tree, flipping onto its roof.
Investigators believe speed played a role in the crash. Police said drivers were known to use the crossing’s steep grade as a ramp to “jump” their vehicles.
Lorain County, Medina County, Liverpool Township, Columbia Township, ODOT, and the railroad company, CSX, all agreed to change the roadway after the fatal crash.
Both lawsuits were filed Monday on behalf of the families of Bartchak, Poerner and Fox. Chaya’s family is not a part of these lawsuits.
The first lawsuit, filed in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, argues that trustees from Columbia and Liverpool Townships and commissioners and engineers from Lorain and Medina Counties failed to properly maintain the railroad crossing, creating a safety hazard.
The lawsuit reads, “The road over the railroad tracks at the 141917H crossing and the berm, culvert and right of way in the immediate vicinity posed an unreasonably dangerous hazard for the traveling public and foreseeable motorists, specifically, the three decedents herein.”
It was alleged that the authorities knew of the hazards and failed to repair them prior to this tragedy.
The lawsuit further alleges that railroad operator, CSX Corporation of Jacksonville, Florida, “negligently failed to maintain, repair, inspect and/or upgrade” the railroad crossing.
The second lawsuit, filed in the Court of Claims in Columbus, argues that the Department of Transportation failed to maintain a safe roadway. This includes failing to properly utilize adequate and proper warning devices, failing to conduct a basic hazard assessment for the area and failing to develop, design, engineer, inspect and/or approve upgrades to the area, among other claims.
Officials later spent $450,000 to fix the railroad crossing. The slope leading up to the crossing was reduced, the speed limit was lowered and new warning signs have been posted.
Feel free to comment on this blog post. For further information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).