Lawsuit readied in I-395 crash that left Norwich firefighter dead

An attorney representing the family of a Norwich firefighter killed by an alleged drunken driver in 2012 says he has prepared a wrongful death lawsuit claiming negligence by the owners and operators of a Montville service station where he says the driver, Willis H. Goodale, was living and chronically impaired prior to causing the fatal crash.

Attorney Mark F. Griffin, representing members of the estate of Benjamin DeMond and others, claims Goodale was living out of his Jeep Cherokee at the rest area off Interstate 395 in Montville.

On the evening of March 9, 2012, police say Goodale pulled out of the service area and onto the highway into the path of DeMond's southbound Nissan Maxima in an attempt to reach a break in the center median to the other side of the highway.

DeMond, 33, was traveling with his two sons and tried unsuccessfully to avoid Goodale's Jeep Cherokee, crashing and veering into the northbound side of the highway through the emergency turnaround where his car was hit head-on by an oncoming vehicle driven by Andrew Crouch.

DeMond was killed. Crouch and DeMond's two young sons were seriously injured. Goodale's blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit of .08, according to the police report.

Through his own investigation, Griffin said he has learned that Goodale, for a period of two weeks prior to the accident, was "living, residing, loitering, sleeping and /or squatting in his Jeep Cherokee," in the parking lot adjacent to the Mobil Mart service station.

During that time, Griffin claims Goodale interacted with the employees there, used their bathroom and repeatedly entered the store to buy food, gas, hygiene products and on several occasions was allowed to charge his cellphone.

Griffin claims that the incidents were so frequent that employees either consented or were at least aware that Goodale was "chronically under the influence of alcohol or and/or drugs, impaired and/or intoxicated while he was operating a motor vehicle and failed to prevent, curtail, warn police authorities, warn the public, and/or failed to make any attempt to stop and/or curtail him," according to a portion of the lawsuit provided to The Day by Griffin.

"This all went on with the state police barracks across the street," Griffin said. "It's a tragedy. All it would have taken is one phone call to (police). The only place you can go out of that parking lot is back onto 395."

Griffin has filed suit on behalf of DeMond's parents; DeMond's ex-wife, Melissa Bartley; DeMond's two sons; and Andrew and Kathryn Crouch.

"Mr. Crouch was seriously injured and both he and one of (DeMond's) boys are still going through medical procedures," Griffin said.

The suit targets a host of companies, including Project Service, LLC, which has a contract with the state Department of Transportation to run numerous service stations, and O,R & L Facilities Services which Griffin said manages the station.

Griffin, a partner in the Watertown firm of D'Amico, Griffin and Pettinicchi, LLC., says the suit has been served on several of the defendants but yet to be documented in Waterbury Superior Court. The suit seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

Goodale, with a last known address in Groton, remains held in prison, charged with second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle and three counts of second-degree assault among other charges. His case is pending.

g.smith@theday.com

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