By Michael Regan
Niagara Gazette —
A couple struck by a drunken driver in June while walking their dogs along the Erie Canal have filed a lawsuit against North Tonawanda, claiming the city should have constructed barriers on the Sweeney Street pedestrian path where the accident took place.
Ronaldo Parker, 49, a Buffalo firefighter, and his fiance, Darnelle Brady, 43, a computer consultant from North Tonawanda, were seriously injured when a 1995 Dodge Intrepid driven by Anthony Regalla crossed over the path after leaving an Oliver Street bar. The couple's dog was also killed before Regalla and another passenger ended up in the canal where they were rescued by passersby.
Samuel J. Capizzi, a partner of Brown Chiari, who is representing the couple, said the city installed a "driveway" in 2000 near the area where the accident occurred at the intersection of Oliver Street that may be confusing for drivers. Capizzi said that the city should have constructed 3- to 4-foot concrete barriers to prevent the accident.
"They created the vehicle access on their property," he said.
Brady was found bleeding profusely at the scene with several fractures to her leg. Despite his own injuries that included fractures to his foot and ankle, police said that Parker used his body as a tourniquet to stem his girlfriend's injury until rescue workers arrived. Roughly six witnesses saw the accident that took place just after 11 p.m. on June 20.
Capizzi said Ronaldo and Brady both have had several surgeries to repair injuries to their legs and continue to be unable to work.
City attorney Shawn Nickerson said North Tonawanda bears no responsibility for the accident despite it horrific nature.
"It's a tragic, tragic thing that happened, I can't stress that enough," Nickerson said. "But the city has no control over some guy who is driving drunk on city streets, accumulates a number of traffic violations, blasted through a stop sign and wound up on the bike path. There's no causation by the city that contributed to the accident happening."
Regalla, of Tonawanda, is due to be sentenced for charges related to the accident in May, while Capizzi said he expects the proceedings related to the lawsuit to take several years.