2013-10-24 / Front Page

Families of crash victims file lawsuit

Plaintiffs want median barrier on Pell Bridge
By Tim Riel

The family of a Jamestown man who was killed in a head-on collision on the Pell Bridge two years ago has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state of Rhode Island.

On Oct. 21, 2011, at about 10:45 p.m., Kenny Prior was a passenger in Kathy Meunier’s car when another vehicle crossed over two lanes of opposing traffic. The two cars collided, killing Meunier instantly. Prior, who was developmentally disabled, was critically injured. He died several hours later. The two victims were driving home from their jobs at Naval Station Newport.

Both the Prior and Meunier families filed the suit Monday in Newport County Superior Court. The grievance claims that bridges with more than 20,000 daily vehicles are required to have median barriers, according to minimum industry standards. The Pell Bridge is traversed by 27,000 daily motorists each day and has no safety precaution separating eastbound and westbound traffic.

“If the authorities tasked with protecting highway safety in Rhode Island had followed basic safety guidelines, the horrific crash that killed my brother and his friend never would have happened,” said David Prior, Kenny’s brother. “It’s a dangerous bridge and something needs to be done.”

Other defendants named in the suit are the state Department of Transportation and the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. According to the plaintiffs, the bridge authority secured a bond 2010 to build a median barrier renovate its headquarters. New were built, but no barrier installed.

“My wife died because our public servants thought fancy office space was more important than protecting the people of Rhode said Richard Meunier.

David Darlington is the chairman of the bridge authority’s board of directors. He said money from the 2010 bond used to build the headquarters, and that it was specified that studies wouldn’t be done for a median until at least 2015.

SinceIt’s 2009,All theAboutbridge authority has twice submitted a grant to the federal government to build a barrier. The most request, submitted by Executive Director Buddy Croft on Aug. 2011, says the need for a is warranted because of a “ of cross-over accidents and collisions.” The bridge asked for $6 million to a median barrier. The application was denied.

Darlington says the authority has been working diligently 2005 to determine if a median barrierYouis appropriateand yourforfamilythe Bridge. personal All“ThereAboutare acare

FamilynumberTheofatvariables in place,”residents.he said. Here“We have a windindividualstudy. Wouldyouthe reduced width of the lanes be dangerous?

Would the youstructurerequirebe compromised by the added weight?”

“DarlingtonWhen I thinksays ofaerodynamicthe studiesSeasons,have beenI thinkdone,ofandwords using a wind tunnel was caring,He islaughter,awaiting results.new finalwarmthphase ofandtestingsincerity.is expected beginmother’sin 2015.care at The personDarlingtontreatedsaid officialsresidents with maintaining the Golden andmembersyour familyof theirwill enjoy Bridge in San Francisco started researching a median barrier in 1996. Just this year the project out to bid. atThereThehasSeasonsto be engineering tells us why a barrier makes sense or why it doesn’t,” Darlington said. “And if so, which barrier makes sense and which doesn’t. Safety is paramount. But we can’t start putting things on the bridge. We can install a barrier for the right reasons, but it’s not going to help anyone if it compromises the bridge structure.”

Darlington said initial reports a median barrier does make but there are more engineering studies that need to be done. example, lighter steel is available enjoynow thatthewasn’tlovewhenandstudies began. Seasonseachlavishesstep of theonway,their respectedout it makesassense,”the

But“assistance”we can’t skip any realize what happened

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10,000,000mom transitslived atoverThethe bridge year that are very safe.” fun, security,

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