A Denver man whose wife and stepdaughter were killed last year when a city fire truck T-boned their vehicle filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday over the fatal crash.
Benjamin Hendry, 60, alleges the city and fire department failed to properly train the firefighters on safely driving and on operating the fire truck’s system for changing traffic lights during emergency responses. The lawsuit claims Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure failed to properly maintain its traffic lights, among other allegations.
Hendry’s common law wife, Debra Williams, 53, and her daughter, Monica Charles, 38, were both fatally wounded when the fire truck T-boned their vehicle at the intersection of East Speer Boulevard and Broadway on Jan. 23, 2021. Hendry alleges the women had a green light when they entered the intersection.
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The fire truck’s impact flipped the car several times, according to the lawsuit, which says the vehicle traveled 75 to 100 feet before stopping. Charles died almost immediately; Williams was hospitalized and died two days after the crash. A third person in the vehicle survived. Williams and Hendry had lived together as husband and wife for 39 years, according to the lawsuit.
The crash happened as the fire crew was responding to an emergency call about smoke in a building, and the truck’s emergency lights and sirens were on at the time, Denver Fire Chief Desmond Fulton said after the crash.
In the days following the crash, fire officials said they were looking into whether the fire truck’s system for changing traffic lights during emergency responses was working correctly. The lawsuit, filed in Denver District Court, did not detail facts to support its allegations of failed training and maintenance. Hendry’s attorney, Brett Barney, declined to elaborate on the complaint Wednesday.
Denver Fire Department spokesman Greg Pixley said he could not discuss the circumstances around the crash in detail because of the lawsuit. But he said he did “not believe there were any issues with the traffic system.”
“This is a tragedy,” he said. “Anytime there is a loss of life it affects everyone, and this is just an unfortunate circumstance that we will allow the court system to work out.”
He was not aware of any firefighters being disciplined over the incident. Pixley could not say how fast the truck was going when it hit the vehicle.
Denver police, who investigated the crash, did not immediately return a request for additional information.