The organizers and others involved in Retrofest 2022 in Chatham are being sued by several victims and families in connection with a fatal crash that happened during the Classic Car Cruise last summer.
Two people died and three others were seriously injured in a head-on crash on Friday May, 27, 2022 on Queen's Line near Dillon Road.
Brett Iler, 27, of Windsor was charged with several offences, including two counts of careless driving causing death and three counts of careless driving causing bodily harm.
Chatham-Kent police say the accused was driving east on Queen’s Line when his vehicle crashed with a pickup truck travelling westbound. The man’s vehicle then hit an older-model Buick that had five people inside. Two of the occupants in the Buick died at the scene.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking millions of dollars in pain and suffering, damages covering economic loss and medical expenses. Four lawsuits were filed in Windsor Superior Court in late May 2023 on behalf of five plaintiffs.
Lawyers Anthony Giannotti and Jennifer Bezaire represent the estates of the deceased and surviving victims. They told CK News Today the cruise should have never taken place on that stretch of busy highway for such a long distance because the 90 km/hr speed limit is too high and vintage classic cars are not equipped with modern safety devices, such as seat belts and air bags.
Giannotti said the victims in the vintage Buick were all life long friends who went for a cruise and some never returned home. He hopes the people responsible for the tragedy step up and do the right thing.
"There was a husband and wife in the vehicle. The wife unfortunately passed away. One of the best friends was driving the vehicle and he passed away and then there were three others in the vehicle who were all severely injured," said Giannotti. "There's Family Law Act claims where you can claim for the death of a close relative for the loss of companionship, care and guidance you would have and then we have the claims for the actual injuries."
The lawsuits names Iler, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Chatham-Kent police, the Downtown Chatham Historic BIA, and the Kent Historic Auto Club and claim the fatal crash happened because the defendants were negligent and didn't take the necessary precautions to ensure the route was safe or warn the participants about its danger. Iler is also being accused by the plaintiffs of speeding, driving recklessly, being fatigued, driving with defective brakes and tires, adding his vehicle went "airborne" after striking another vehicle. The statements of claim also said police didn't monitor or supervise the route well enough.
Giannotti is hoping to settle out of court, but is prepared for a trial if it comes down to that, adding the process will be complex and lengthy because insurance companies will be involved, examination and discovery still have to take place, and the charges against Iler must still be resolved.
He noted choosing that route for the cruise was a bad idea because the situation was ripe for a catastrophe.
"They knew this was a dangerous stretch of road because it had a history of fatalities that goes back years and years. So, why would put this cruise on that road when you know there's a danger with transport trucks and all kinds of stuff going on there at high speed," Giannotti added.
Bezaire said her client remains under the care of medical specialists, had surgery, and will continue to undergo therapy, rehabilitation, attendant care and other forms of medical treatment and health care into the future.
"He had a number of fractures in his face, a head injury, and a pretty significant fracture to his right wrist that required surgery and we're seeking compensation as a result of those injuries," Bezaire said.
The Director of Legal Services for the Municipality of Chatham-Kent Dave Taylor told CK News Today the municipality does not provide comments on active court matters.
The Kent Historic Auto Club said it's unable to comment at this time.
The other defendants have not replied to a request for comment or said if a statement of defence has been filed. The defendants have 20 days to file a statement of defence.
Iler will be going to trial, but a date hasn't been set yet. His case returns to court on Monday.
The Classic Car Cruise was cancelled this year.