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Parents of trooper killed in collision near Ligonier sue for wrongful death

Paul Peirce
| Monday, July 16, 2018, 5:00 p.m.

The parents of a Pennsylvania state trooper from Unity who died a year ago when his marked vehicle collided with a garbage truck on Route 711 in Ligonier Township have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the sanitation company and the truck driver.

Michael P. Stewart Jr. and Lynn Stewart, parents of Trooper Michael P. Stewart III, 26, this month filed the lawsuit seeking unspecified civil damages against McInchok Sanitation and the driver of the truck, John Hissem Jr. of Ligonier.

Although a state police investigation absolved Hissem of wrongdoing and no charges or citations were filed against the Ligonier area resident, the 17-page civil lawsuit contends Hissem was “careless” and “inattentive” when he pulled out on the highway north of Ligonier.

The lawsuit alleges McInchok failed “to assure that (Hissem) was familiar with his designated route and the premises upon which he would be required to enter and exit, and (failed) to assure (Hissem) would and/or could safely navigate the designated route and/or premises.

“As a direct result of (Hissem’s) negligence, carelessness and recklessness… including his operation of the garbage truck onto Route 711 when it was unsafe to do so and without adequate clearance … Michael P. Stewart III collided with defendant’s garage truck which created an obstacle on Route 711,” the lawsuit alleges.

Philadelphia attorneys James R. Tonca and Ryan D. Hurd filed the lawsuit in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court.

The lawsuit contends Hissem should have utilized a safer path onto Route 711 from the parking lot of Forks Inn Restaurant that “would provide greater visibility.”

A weeks-long state police investigation into the crash disclosed that Stewart was driving a marked police SUV when it collided with a garbage truck at 2:20 a.m. Police reported Stewart and his passenger, Trooper Travis November, were traveling south when the cruiser crashed into the driver’s side of the truck as it made a left turn out of a parking lot to head north on Route 711, police said.

Investigators determined the patrol unit was at fault and that the crash involved a number of factors, including speed, sight distance, a wet road and fog.

Both troopers were wearing seatbelts, police said.

November filed a civil lawsuit last year against the sanitation company to compensate him for his injuries that prevented him from returning to active duty. The lawsuit was withdrawn without prejudice or further comment, according to paperwork filed June 26 by November’s attorney, Kenneth Nolan of Edgar Snyder & Associates in Pittsburgh.

Nolan did not return calls seeking comment.

Although the Stewarts’ lawsuit does not give a specific damage estimate, it indicates they are seeking in excess of $200,000 for the mental suffering both have endured as a result of their son’s death, plus the loss of the earning capacity he would have received if he completed his career as a state trooper and punitive damages.

Stewart, a 2008 graduate of Greater Latrobe High School, on May 13 had his name engraved in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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