Triple fatality spawns lawsuits

By Ed Runyan


Strimbu Trucking and Donald P. Williams Jr. of Austintown, driver of a tractor-trailer cab that crashed into several vehicles, killing three Marine Corps recruits, have been sued five times in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court since the March 31, 2010, accident.

The accident, on state Route 5 just west of Warren, killed Zachary A. Nolen, 19, of Mineral Ridge and Newton Falls; Joshua A. Sherbourne, 21, of Southington; and Michael T. Theodore Jr., 19, of Howland.

Two others in the recruits’ car were injured, as well as several people in five other vehicles, including a motorcyclist.

Theodore’s family seeks $20 million in punitive damages from Strimbu Trucking, of Brookfield Township, the company that employed Williams, as well as $1 million in punitive damages from Williams, more than $25,000 from Strimbu and Williams as compensatory damages and $17,000 in burial costs.

The lawsuit says Williams and Strimbu showed a “conscious disregard for the rights and safety” of Theodore and the rest of the public on the day of the accident.

A Strimbu Trucking spokesman said the company has no comment on pending litigation. Williams did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Williams, 45 of Bainbridge Avenue, is also facing criminal charges — six counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, six counts of aggravated vehicular assault and one count of drug possession.

A lawsuit filed by Sgt. Charles Keene, 25, of Youngstown seeks damages of more than $25,000 from Strimbu and Williams for the injuries and pain he suffered and the medical expenses he incurred as a result of the accident.

Keene, a Marine recruiter, was driving the Pontiac G6 containing the recruits. His car was stopped at the traffic light at Burnett Street when Williams’ truck hit the back of the G6, causing a chain-reaction accident, authorities said.

Keene, the three recruits who died in the crash and recruit Carl W. McDermott III, 19, of Masury, were on their way to Cleveland to complete their enlistment in the Marines. McDermott also was injured but survived.

Strimbu is named in the lawsuit for entrusting its 2005 International truck to Williams, despite Williams’ having been convicted “of numerous serious traffic violations and that [the company] was or should have been aware of his driving record.”

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle records show Williams was convicted of drunken driving three times — in 2000, 1992 and 1987 — and also was convicted in 2000 of allowing his daughter and other juveniles to use drugs or alcohol in an Austintown motel room.

Williams obtained his commercial driver’s license in July 2009.

McDermott also filed suit, seeking $500,000 in punitive damages from Williams and Strimbu and more than $25,000 in compensatory damages from both.

The suit alleges Strimbu was negligent in hiring and supervising Williams because it “knew or should have known of his incompetence as a truck driver.”

Prosecutors have said Williams lied on his application to get hired by Strimbu by claiming he had no criminal record, prior arrests or history of DUI.

Donald L. Beach of Youngs-town, a motorcyclist, sued Williams and Strimbu for more than $25,000 to compensate him for the injuries and damages he suffered in the accident.

And Encompass Insurance Co. of Virginia sued Williams and Strimbu, seeking $19,492 for damages to a 2003 GMC owned by Robert J. Bacue of Warren that was damaged in the accident, plus medical expenses for people in his car.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.