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Lawsuit filed on behalf of victims in fatal Waterford crash

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The families of the three people killed in a crash on Interstate 95 in Waterford last year have filed wrongful death suits against the driver of a tractor trailer who they claim is responsible for the deaths.

The crash occurred shortly before 7 p.m. on Oct. 12, 2014 just south of Exit 82 in the southbound lanes of I-95. Baughnita Leary, 25, of Meriden was slowing for traffic congestion caused by a previous accident when her Nissan Sentra and several other vehicles were struck from behind by a tractor trailer driver by 58-year-old Gerard S. Dube of Swansea, Mass.

Leary was badly injured. Her fiancé, 26-year-old Darin Robinson, 3-year-old son Dacari, and 9-year-old daughter Sanaa, all died from their injuries.

“She lost her whole family,” said Leary’s aunt, Gwen Samuel. “How are you supposed to come back from that? Her kids’ rooms, they’re exactly the same. Like a shrine.”

Four different lawsuits filed at different dates between June and July name Dube and the company he worked for, Gold Medal Bakery, Inc. and Gold Medal Bagel Bakery, Inc. of Fall River, Mass. and Hartford. Three of the suits are now consolidated. Baughnita Leary filed the suits on behalf of herself and children. Lauren Davis filed suit on behalf of Darin Robinson.

The suits allege negligence and carelessness of behalf of Dube for driving with inadequate or defective brakes, speeding, driving when his alertness was impaired by fatigue and not leaving enough distance between vehicles.

Leary’s suit alleges that Gold Medal Bakery failed to properly monitor the inspection and maintenance of the tractor trailer or properly maintain a driving log of the driver.

The suits list numerous possible reasons for the cause of the crash though it is unclear if it is based on an independent investigation into the cause of the crash. Four attorneys involved with the plaintiffs did not immediately return calls on Friday.

State police as of this week had yet to release any reports related to the crash and a spokesman said the accident remains under investigation. No arrests were made or citations issued as a result of the crash. The Day has a pending Freedom of Information Act request for the police report.

The suits asks for an unspecified amount of money above $15,000 to pay for extensive medical bills, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

While the lawsuit is needed to shine a light on the cause of the tragedy, Samuel said it has also served to reopen the wounds for her niece. Despite starting a family as a teenage mom, Baughnita Leary “finished high school, worked hard and always provided,” Samuel said.

Samuel said she will be fighting for better oversight by the state for truck drivers, especially those with spotty driving histories. In addition to some traffic violations such as speeding, Dube’s driver’s license was revoked by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles shortly after the accident, she said.

Dube could not be reached for comment.

Samuel said she is going to be looking to leadership from the state Department of Motor Vehicles to update laws that govern oversight of trucks traveling in and out of Connecticut from other states.

“No matter what kind of car you have or how safe you are, it’s David versus Goliath,” she said in reference to a crash with a tractor trailer.

In addition to the crash that claimed the lives of Leary's family, a separate accident that night involving another tractor trailer killed Saumya Arora, 33, a dentist from Massachusetts.

Arora died from injuries sustained in an accident in the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 near Exit 82, where traffic was backed up. A tractor-trailer carrying frozen food, driven by Kevin Custer, 60, of Swansea, Mass., struck three cars which in turn struck three more. Police have yet to release the accident report in that case and said it remains under investigation.

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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