Parents of crash victim sue PennDOT

Liz Hayes
| Friday, Dec. 31, 2010

GREENSBURG -- The parents of a Lower Burrell teenager who was killed in a 2009 car crash have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against PennDOT.

Jeffrey and Diana Acre allege that PennDOT's neglect in designing and maintaining Route 366 in New Kensington contributed to the death of their 16-year-old daughter, Kylee Jo.

New Kensington Police accused Jonathan Patrick O'Sullivan, then 18, of New Kensington of speeding and driving drunk when he lost control of his sport-utility vehicle on Sept. 6, 2009 and slammed into a guardrail near Marlborough Drive.

Kylee Jo, a front-seat passenger who was not wearing a seat belt, died at the scene. O'Sullivan, a passenger and an elderly couple in an oncoming car were injured.

O'Sullivan in May 2010 was charged with vehicular homicide, drunken driving, speeding and several related crimes; he is awaiting trial.

He allegedly was driving 90 mph in what was then a 55 mph zone. He also had a blood-alcohol level of 0.06 percent, which is not legal since O'Sullivan is younger than 21.

In the lawsuit filed in Westmoreland County Court, the Acres blame PennDOT for not leveling a steep, 4-inch dropoff between the road and the shoulder. The suit says the dropoff is located on a curve, exacerbating the problem.

Court documents indicate O'Sullivan's passenger tires rolled down this dropoff; when he tried to steer back onto the road, he lost control.

The Acres request in excess of $30,000 for pain, suffering and Kylee Jo's lost earning potential.

Jay Ofsanik, a spokesman for the PennDOT district that includes Westmoreland County, said he could not comment on pending litigation.

PennDOT upgraded that section of Route 366 in the past year after two fatal accidents occurred in 2009.

About eight months before Kylee Jo's death, 17-year-old Colin Grau of New Kensington died in a head-on collision near Memorial Park. That crash also was attributed to a teenage driver overcorrecting after the passenger tires veered off the road.

New Kensington officials and state Rep. John Pallone, D-New Kensington, pressured PennDOT to evaluate the road and lower the speed limit.

PennDOT dropped the speed limit to 50 mph, paved the shoulders to eliminate the drop offs and added rumble strips, guardrail reflectors and more painted guide lines.

Additional Information:

The Grau case

The parents of Colin Grau, who also died in 2009 in a Route 366 car crash, hold New Kensington-Arnold School District partially responsible for their son's death.

Scott and Brenda Grau of New Kensington sued the school district in federal court, alleging the accident could have been avoided if Valley High School had provided busing and if administrators had prevented students from cutting class.

The crash occurred within sight of the school on Jan. 21, 2009, after Grau and the driver, another Valley High School senior, left school early without permission.

The Graus' accused the district of willful misconduct and creating a dangerous situation for students.

The case was dismissed in September. The Graus have appealed.

Valley High School began busing students the next school year, a commitment the school board had made shortly before Colin Grau's death.

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