The parties involved in transporting a huge wind turbine that caused a traffic accident that killed three Elkhart women more than three years ago have agreed to pay $12.8 million to a widower of one of the women.
It could be Indiana’s largest wrongful death settlement paid out to a childless spouse, said attorneys representing plaintiff Robert Burg, whose wife, Pamela Beemer, was one of the women who died.
Burg and Beemer attended an Amish haystack fundraising dinner at Northridge High School in Middlebury on Sept. 16, 2011. After the dinner their neighbor, Ernie Sailor, took everyone on what was supposed to be a short tour down the country roads where he and his wife, Maxine, were born and raised, according to a press release from Chicago attorney Stephen Libman, one of Burg’s attorneys.
At about 8:30 that night, Beemer, 46, Virginia Miller, 85, and Maxine Sailor, 87, were riding in the back seat of a 2007 Lincoln Town Car driven west on U.S. 20 by Ernie Sailor, 87. Burg was the front-seat passenger.
The car was struck by an oversized wind tower component being hauled by a tractor-trailer coming from the opposite direction, Libman said. The car spun around and was hit again by a pickup truck escorting the semi-trailer.
All three women were killed.
The component had protruded about 2½ feet into the opposite lane, and the transport company violated the law by hauling it in the dark, Libman said.
Beemer had been a project manager with Citibank. The couple would have celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary five days after the crash.
Burg’s lawsuit alleged that the trucking company entrusted the oversized load to a driver who had never hauled a wind tower and was not properly trained to do so, especially on a homemade trailer. His lawyers also discovered that the trucking company understated the height and weight of the tractor-trailer to avoid the 3:30 p.m. curfew and the cost of state police escorts.
Evidence also was uncovered that the transportation broker knew that the state of Indiana was requiring four to five state police vehicles to escort oversized loads in response to a recent fatality, but the broker failed to communicate that directive to the trucking company and its driver, Libman said.
Finally, the complaint alleged that front escort vehicle was three-fourths of a mile ahead of the tractor-trailer instead of the required 500 feet, “creating a large gap and did not provide adequate warning to the vehicles traveling in the opposite direction regarding how far they needed to move over to avoid colliding with the load.”
Burg sued defendants General Electric Co., Steelman Transportation, a trucking broker; Landstar Ranger Inc., a trucking company in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; TLG Transport Inc., a trucking company in Longmont, Colo.; Darin Rusher, 32, of Willard, Mo., the tractor-trailer driver; Sheryl Weatherman, 47, of Ozark, Mo., driver of the rear escort vehicle; and Earl Eugene Jenkins of Ozark, whose role in the case was not clear from court records available late Tuesday.
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