Family of woman killed in Petersburg van crash sues city
Two years after a city-operated van’s Fourth of July van crash left two women dead, one victim’s family is suing the Southeast Alaska community and the driver already criminally charged in the case.
Eighteen-year-old Molly Parks’ estate is suing both the Petersburg Borough and driver William “Chris” Allen in the wake of the July 4, 2016 single-vehicle wreck which also killed 19-year-old Marie Giesbrecht.
Prosecutors have said that Allen, charged with murder, manslaughter and assault, has had a history of seizures and should have known that he shouldn’t have been behind the wheel in the rollover.
Members of the Parks family declined comment to KTVA Wednesday on the June 18 wrongful-death suit. Petersburg public radio station KFSK said Monday that neither city officials nor Allen’s parents were commenting in detail, although a city attorney rejected the suit's primary claim as "incorrect."
An account of the crash in the lawsuit said Parks, Giesbrecht and a third city employee, 19-year-old Catherine Cardenas, had been told to set up rest stations along the route of the local July 4 recreational run. The three young women all got into a van driven by Allen, 23 at the time, before it began traveling along South Nordic Drive.
“At approximately 7:27 a.m., Allen lost control of the van,” the lawsuit read. “He stated straight forward and did not respond to the passengers, who were yelling and begging him to slow down, undoubtedly experiencing grave fear. Allen’s eventual speed was estimated at 52 mph in a 30 mph zone.”
Soon afterward the van veered sharply to the right, crashing over a guardrail and rolling upside-down on an embankment. Parks and Giesbrecht died in the crash, while Allen and Cardenas were injured and hospitalized; alcohol was allegedly found in Allen’s bloodstream after the crash.
The suit also alleges that Allen, who was previously convicted of a DUI, had a history of alcohol-triggered seizures. He had applied for a job at Petersburg’s Public Works department, but was rejected due to his inability to drive; the Parks and Recreation department subsequently hired him.
Petersburg officials had noted Allen’s history of seizures, according to the suit, including two in the spring of 2016. Superiors at Parks and Recreation had formed a plan to keep Allen from being alone in case he suffered another one, and a physician told the department not to let him drive.
“On July 4, 2016, Petersburg scheduled Chris Allen to drive the borough van, endangering himself, the three [unsuspecting] passengers in the van and all other drivers on the road,” the lawsuit read. “No one in the [Parks and Recreation department] intervened after having been wanted numerous times – by Allen’s doctors and other borough employees – not to let Allen drive.”
The suit seeks unspecified damages, based on proof submitted in court.
“Defendants’ actions are comparable to playing Russian roulette with Molly Parks’ life,” the lawsuit read. “Chris Allen pulled the trigger, but Petersburg handed him the gun. It was not a matter of if Chris Allen would have a seizure while driving a borough vehicle, but when.”
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