Ithaca, N.Y. — The fiancé of the woman killed in the truck crash at Simeon’s Restaurant in June 2014 is suing the city of Ithaca, the driver of the truck, several trucking officials and several trucking companies in connection with the accident.
Adam Cortwright, who was engaged to 27-year-old Simeon’s bartender Amanda Bush, filed the 26-page civil lawsuit on Wednesday, according to court records reviewed by the Ithaca Voice.
Bush died after a truck driver lost control of his brakes and slammed through the Ithaca Commons restaurant, sending several people to the hospital. Mayor Svante Myrick later called it one of the darkest days in the city’s history.
Truck driver Viacheslav Grychanyi, 37, of Spokane, Wash., is one of several individuals named as defendants in Cortwright’s lawsuit, along with several other trucking company officials.
“The crash was caused by the negligence, recklessness and carelessness of defendants,” the lawsuit states.
Grychanyi has not faced serious criminal charges — he has only been accused of three traffic-level violations.
But the lawsuit accuses the truck driver of committing “deceptive, intentional, deliberately indifferent, outrageous, wanton and grossly negligent acts,” leading to the crash.
Also named as defendants are several companies and individuals connected to Grychanyi or the truck he was driving. Some, like Quality Relocation Services and its “safety director” Dmitriy Zhelez, have been widely reported on in previous coverage of the crash.
Others, however, have not been previously mentioned either by law enforcement or in news accounts. These include companies like “Transport Express Inc.,” which is said to have “entered into business arrangements” that put Grychanyi’s truck on the Ithaca road the day of the crash.
New names also surface in the civil lawsuit. For instance, “Vitalie Zgherea” is named as a defendant for his job with Transport Express Inc. and other trucking companies.
Cortwright, the fiancé, is named as the first plaintiff in the case. But the lawsuit also names the infant child of Cortwright and Bush, who was 14 months old at the time of the crash, as a plaintiff.
Bush was also pregnant with her second child at the time of the crash.
City of Ithaca named as defendant
Most of the lawsuit’s claims are directed at Grychanyi, trucking officials and the trucking companies. But the lawsuit also names the city of Ithaca as a defendant, claiming that the city should have acted to prevent the crash from occurring.
The city of Ithaca showed “negligence, reckless disregard (and) deliberate indifference,” leading to the crash, according to the notice of claim filed by Cortwright’s attorney.
For instance, the city failed to install barriers, adequate warnings, proper signage or proper lighting before the crash, the documents say.
Since the accident, a truck safety “working group” including Mayor Myrick, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and Department of Transportation officials has examined — and, in some cases, already implemented — a range of solutions to improve truck safety on Ithaca’s hills.
However, the lawsuit says that Ithaca should have responded earlier — and also argues that Bush’s life could have been saved had it done so.
Ithaca, the lawsuit says, “failed to study, modify, restrict, limit and/or consider changes to the traffic pattern traveled by the car transport.”
Ithaca also failed to redirect motorists to a safer route and allowed for “heavy vehicle traffic in a manner and/or pattern that created an unreasonable safety hazard,” according to the lawsuit.
The city has not immediately responded to a request for comment.
The list of companies named as defendants in the lawsuit is long:
»» Quality Relocation Services;
»» Auto Star Transport;
»» Mariupol Auto Transport;
»» Speedy Auto Transport;
»» Transport Express;
»» VNS Auto Transport.
According to the lawsuit, all six companies were run by the individually named defendants. The lawsuit, for instance, calls the companies the “alter egos” of Zhelez, echoing earlier allegations that QRS was a “chameleon carrier.”
As the Ithaca Voice’s Michael Connor previously reported:
“Like the lizards that can change color, sometimes for the purpose of camouflage, trucking companies with spotty histories seemed to be able to change colors, close down the old business and reappear with a new name.”
The lawsuit explicitly connects Zhelez, for instance, to all six trucking companies, saying that he “exercised compete dominion and control over the business practices, operations and assets of the corporations.”
Here’s the complete list of individually named defendants:
»» Viacheslav Grychanyi, the driver of the truck that crashed into Simeon’s.
»» Vitalie Zgherea, who is said to have been running trucking operations with Grychanyi.
»» Dmitriy Zhelez, listed as an officer in several of the truck companies.
»» Sergey Zhelez, also an officer in several of the companies.
»» Vladmir Shevchenko, also an officer in several of the companies.
No precise dollar figure named
The lawsuit was written by attorney Sam A. Elbadawi of the Syracuse-area Sugarman Law Firm.
No specific dollar amount was specified. However, Cortwright says Bush’s estate should be compensated for her “pre-impact terror and funeral expenses” as well as monetary damages for her child’s loss of guidance and support.
They are also seeking “money damages for Adam Cortright’s loss of society, comfort and companionship of his unborn child.”