August 21, 2014

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Brunswick crash victims’ families file wrongful-death suit

This photo, taken in 2012, shows the Boston Road railroad crossing’s grade as it was when a Chevy Cavalier jumped over and crashed, killing four Brunswick High School students. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTOS

This photo, taken in 2012, shows the Boston Road railroad crossing’s grade as it was when a Chevy Cavalier jumped over and crashed, killing four Brunswick High School students. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTOS

ELYRIA — The families of three of four Brunswick High School students killed in a car crash two years ago filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against CSX Corporation, Columbia and Liverpool township trustees and the commissioners and engineers in Lorain and Medina counties.

Killed in the June 3, 2012, crash were Blake Bartchak, 17, Lexi Poerner, 16, Kevin Fox, 18, and driver Jeffrey Chaya, 18. The lawsuit was filed Monday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court by the families of Bartchak, Poerner and Fox.

A fifth person in the vehicle, Julia Romito, survived the crash but had no memory of what happened.

Ohio Highway Patrol investigators and the vehicle dashboard said the car was going  69 mph.

Ohio Highway Patrol investigators and the vehicle dashboard said the car was going
69 mph.

The Ohio Highway Patrol determined that Chaya’s Chevrolet Cavalier was traveling at 69 mph when he lost control of the vehicle as he crossed the railroad tracks on Boston Road in Columbia Station.

The lawsuit said the car went airborne, left the roadway, crashed into a culvert and flipped onto its roof. Police have said drivers were known to use the steep grade of the crossing as a ramp to launch their vehicles airborne.

The railroad crossing underwent a $450,000 safety overhaul, including smoothing down the grade in the wake of the crash.

The speed limit in the area was lowered and caution signs were put up as well.

The lawsuit contends that the governmental entities and the railroad knew or should have known about the dangers of the crossing and taken steps before the crash to mitigate the danger.

  • nomokids

    I understand mourning but blaming others doesn’t lessen the underlying responsibility. These young adults were breaking the law, going 69 mph. They were having a good time and made bad choices. There are consequences. Sad, but true. Others should not pay for their bad choices.

    • TL1976

      Absolutely! The driver was speeding, and wasn’t paying attention to the roads surface (if he didn’t know it dipped). Sometimes people want to blame other people instead of those who are really responsible. Unfortunately, that’s how a LOT of how society has become. We lost our loved ones, so we should be entitled to this, and this, and this so we are going to sue to get SOMETHING out of it. It was an accident and they happen. Case closed.

  • givemeabreak1234

    I totally agree with nomokids, well put

  • tomfeher

    I agree, let’s blame everyone EXCEPT those responsibly. File a lawsuit against the driver, he is the one that killed your kids

  • 2111

    While the parents are trying to lay the blame inappropriately why don’t they blame the vehicle they were driving? I’m sure there are plenty of other vehicles that when traveling beyond safe conditions can accommodate road conditions much better. If they knew their child couldn’t control themselves when driving at least they could have provided them with a safer vehicle and avoided this tragedy.
    There were thousands of vehicles that utilized that roadway without incident. What was the difference in this case is the actions of those involved.

  • Jim

    “The lawsuit contends that the governmental entities and the railroad knew or should have known about the dangers of the crossing and taken steps before the crash to mitigate the danger.”

    You mean, like put up a stop sign (that was ignored) and a speed limit (also ignored)? Anything anyone would have done before the crash would have likely been ignored by the joyriders in their quest to go airborne.

  • golfingirl

    Maybe the parents are negligent for not placing a “speed limit device” on the car.

    I hope the parents don’t turn this tragedy into a circus. The railroad “corrected” the conditions, even though it did not cause the accident, at their expense.

    They can’t say they are doing it to prevent other kids from dying at this point.

    Let it go.

    • Simon Jester

      Too late on the circus part.

  • Otter

    Would their law firm be Dowe Cheethem, and Howe?
    This was a horrible tragedy, but at some point everyone is responsible for their own actions. That anyone would try to profit from it sickens me.

  • alreadyfedup1

    This is the deep pockets theory at its best. The driver Jeffrey Chaya, 18 took the stupid choice and jumped the tracks. Why don’t the other three families sue him and or his estate? Oh right empty pockets there. This is a money grab by the families plain and simple. YOU should be ASHAMED!!!!!! If the lawsuit isn’t dismissed I hope the verdict will be $1.00. $0.25 for each. Please don’t have anymore phony memorials for the Brunswick dead. You have shown everyone as the money grubbers you are SHAMEFUL!

    • HermanL22

      Phony memorials? Okay, not that I support the whole lawsuit this article is about, because the truth is that it was an accident that could have been avoided, but I have to ask – were you there? Did you attend any of those “phony memorials?” I was. I saw all of those kids, so heart-broken and clinging to one another. I saw all of those kids just absoutely lost. There were hundreds and hundreds of kids, many of which were witnessing death for the first time. There’s nothing “phony” about the memorials. It’s for the kids; the friends of those who passed (my child being one of them). I can’t help but pray that this huge tragedy never dies in those young minds, because those “phony memorials” are reminders to those kids that they aren’t immortal, and that death can happen to anyone at any time. So while you may be right about the lawsuit portion, the “phony memorials” part is completely uncalled for.

      • alreadyfedup1

        Here is a quote “Everything happens for a reason. But sometimes the reason is that you’re stupid and you make bad decisions”. The BAD decision was made by the driver and the passengers who allowed the driver to jump the tracks. Teach your kids about life and death quit trying to shelter them. Critical thinking is a lost art.

  • TheRustyScupper

    I guess “greed is good”. Folks trying to make mega-buicks from the deaths of their children. They should be shamed and/or burned in hell.

  • stop ur whining part deux

    Your kids break the law and die and you sue the railroad and the municipality. Shameful. Perhaps the families bringing this lawsuit should do some inward reflection on how they did not do an adequate job educating their children on what you should and shouldn’t do.

    Perhaps we should be able to sue parents for raising children that are ill-prepared to behave in society.

  • ched

    Sad Sad situation, but being Sue Happy doesn’t make you Happy! Let it go & get on with life. We all have lost loved ones. Cherish the Good Times and Memories!

  • Bob

    Sadly this will be settle out of court.

    Unless these families give the money to something like M.A.D.D., which is doubtful. Then this is shameful.

  • Bruce Tennant

    “If it’s
    never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take
    responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim. – Richard Bach

    • Melissa

      Love the quote Bruce

  • Matthew James Utt

    So because they didn’t teach there kids common sense they feel the need to pass the blame. The same reason this probably happened in the first place. People need to start holding them selves accountable for there actions and there own stupidity.

  • Rtgh123

    I really hope they lose this lawsuit.

  • Rtgh123

    Jeffrey Chaya’s parents should pay for the $450,000 of safety improvements for tracks that for 75 or more years were easily crossed by thousands and thousands of people who were raised to not drive like maniacs.

  • Kevin Jenkins

    Bull hockey. The driver was at fault, nobody else.

    Just a bunch of money hungry gold digging parents trying to get some free money.

    Sue the drivers parents.

    Disgusting.

  • Simon Jester

    It’s definitely someone else’s fault that four idiots got killed doing a “Dukes of Hazzard” impression.

    This country is screwed.

  • Phil Blank

    There are crossings like this all over the back country roads in the US.
    Its up to the driver to know and understand that normal civilian cars do not fly!

  • John Davidson

    Glad to see that we are all in agreement on this matter. Now how do we get the point across to the family’s. Hope they have a chance to read all these comments.

  • Donelle Moss

    This is absurd. The kids were going well over the speed limit. As sad as it is it is the drivers fault. The passengers wrongfully died as the result of poor judgment and the wrecklessness of the driver solely not the company.

  • HankKwah

    How can the families sue ANYONE when the driver was breaking the law by exceeding the POSTED SPEED LIMIT? Obviously, it’s safe at the posted limit, otherwise there would be many deaths that occurred at this crossing. Hope the judge extends his sympathies for their losses, and then again when he tells them he’s throwing the case out of court.

  • Steven

    Speed limit and caution signs were posted.

    Also, and even more importantly, the driver KNEW the crossing. Had he not been familiar with it I could have some empathy… well, except for driving double the limit.

    Hopefully the judge will have a finding of $1. Or even toss it.

  • Rob McClain

    The driver was 18; the parents of five students apparently gave them permission to go out the night before graduation AFTER midnight. The driver exceeds the speed limit at the crossing with willful intent to launch a 2,200 pound car with over 600 pounds of payload as far down the road as he could go. The driver loses control, hits a tree at 65+ MPH and winds up with everyone trapped inside with the roof crushed flat. CSX was involved, how, exactly?

    The deaths of the innocent were horrendous enough. The community response in Brunswick was supportive of the families, and should be, but there was absolutely no attempt by a civic leader, priest or school official to say what needed to be said: Jeffrey Chaya was guilty of vehicular homicide. His actions killed three students. And yet, I still see people wearing those blue shirts with the angel wings from time to time, both children and adults, and my question for them is a simple one:

    If my son, an adult, were driving 69 mph in a 45 mph zone, and if he jumped dangerous railroad tracks and smashed into the Chaya car killing four human beings, where would the fault lie? Would you put his name alongside the other dead and maimed teenagers on that shirt?

    And would the victim’s families really have the chutzpa to sue CSX if my son’s actions led to the death of their children, as did Chaya’s?

    The Chaya parents have suffered enough; the community has recovered from a terrible wound. But this nonsense of looking for relief from a deep pockets corporation when the blame is 100% in the hands of Jeffrey Chaya needs to stop.

    • HermanL22

      Just to clarify, the reason they were out at that time was so he could take his friends home after spending the day together.
      Anyone familiar with Brunswick, and Boston Rd. and those infamous tracks knows that that is an area where young people always try to “fly” their cars. It has been that area since as long as I can remember.
      Nothing will justify what took place that night/morning, but they were best friends, and they were all in it together – more than likely cheering him on. It doesn’t make it right, and unfortunately it can never be undone.
      All this being said, I don’t agree with the lawsuit either.

    • Charisse Nikel

      Wow – very well said!

  • tbcj98

    Agree with the posts. The responsibility for this tragic event goes directly to the choices made by these students and their parents. What is tragic is the lawsuit. If these parents receive compensation how can they enjoy the money. How can they look at themselves when they spend money received from the death of their child. Sad…. Many times these type of events and subsequent lawsuits lead to a disintegration of the family. The lawsuit forces them to relive the tragedy in court and in depositions. This are stressful events that generate a great deal of inner reflection.