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Belle Vernon family suing VFD over crash

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 7:15 p.m.

A Belle Vernon family alleges in a lawsuit that a Rostraver Central Volunteer Fire Department truck did not have its siren activated and ignored a red light when it slammed into a sport utility vehicle on July 4.

Members of the Timothy and Jennifer Kolodychak family are seeking unspecified damages against Rostraver Township, its volunteer fire department and fireman Justin Shawley, who was driving the truck, in a civil lawsuit filed this week in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court.

The Kolodychak's 8-year-old son, Logan, was severely injured in the crash at 6:50 p.m. He was initially treated at Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township, Washington County, then was airlifted to UPMC Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he reportedly had facial reconstructive surgery.

According to the lawsuit, Jennifer Kolodychak was driving west on Fellsburg Road in a 2006 GMC Suburban and was approaching the intersection with Fellsburg Church Road.

Logan was buckled into a second-row seat in the SUV, along with his sister, Kendall, then 11.

Logan suffered traumatic brain injuries, bruises and abrasions to his head, and permanent scarring to his face, according to the lawsuit.

Kendall remains traumatized by the accident and suffers from anxiety and nightmares, the suit states.

Jennifer Kolodychak required treatment for injuries at Monongahela Valley Hospital.

The lawsuit alleges that Shawley was negligent for driving at an unsafe speed, that other firefighters aboard the truck failed to maintain proper lookout as they approached the intersection, and that Shawley failed to properly control the vehicle.

A police report on the accident said the truck's emergency lights “and audible” alarm were activated as it approached the intersection. Fireman Martin Palla was acting as “a lookout for Shawley,” police said.

The Kolodychaks' attorney, Henry Wallace of the Pittsburgh firm McKenna & Associates, said there are several differences in the description of the accident in the township police report and the civil lawsuit.

Wallace said he intends to challenge the veracity of the police report at trial.

The lawsuit alleges that Shawley had a red traffic light as he entered the intersection southbound and collided with Kolodychak, who had a green light.

“... Shawley and the (fire department) were not responding to a fire or other serious emergency. On the date and time aforesaid, fire truck, being operated by Shawley, failed to make use of an audible emergency signal. Shawley failed to stop or slow down as he approached the red traffic light,” the lawsuit alleges.

Shawley was not cited by police after the accident, according to court dockets.

Neither township solicitor Al Gaudio nor Shawley returned messages seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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