The parents of a Washington teenager who died two years ago when her car crashed into a lake along Augusta Bottom Road have filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging negligence by multiple government entities in maintaining or improving the gravel roadway.
Plaintiffs in the suit are David Neier and Dawn Tucker, parents of Ella Neier, 16, who died Oct. 22, 2010, when the car she was driving ran off a section of the road referred to as the Augusta Parkway and crashed into a lake along the road.
The 1.9-mile bottom road sits atop a levee and provides a link between Warren and St. Charles counties.
The Augusta Parkway section is in Warren County but county officials have refused to maintain that section since it was rebuilt after the 1993 Missouri River flood with a grant obtained by the town of Augusta.
Named as defendants in the suit are Warren County, St. Charles County, Franklin County, the town of Augusta, the city of Washington and Three Creeks Village.
The plaintiffs allege that all of the defendants failed to properly maintain and improve the roadway, leading to Ella Neier’s death.
The plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages plus court costs, attorney fees and other relief from each of the defendants.
City Counselor Mark Piontek had no comment on the suit when contacted Tuesday, other than to say that the matter would be referred to the city’s insurance company. Warren County Attorney Jay Levitch also declined comment Tuesday saying he hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet.
“Ella’s death was a terrible, avoidable tragedy,” David Neier said in a prepared statement. “Everyone has known for many years just how dangerous that road is and the government leaders have done nothing to fix it; other than the city of Washington leaders who have pleaded with some of the other entities to take corrective action.
“There’s been a lot of talk but really no action since Ella died, and long before,” said Dawn Tucker. “Even after we collected money to put up guardrails to help fix the problem, nothing was done. So if no one else is going to do anything, we decided we needed to, so that no other parents have to go through what we’ve gone through.”
In the prepared statement, the plaintiffs’ attorneys noted that the problems with the road are well-documented. They say at least 18 traffic mishaps have occurred on this short section of road in the last 10 years. Included among these crashes are at least four incidents where a vehicle overturned, including three other teenagers who ended up in the same pond where Ella drowned.
Two citizens have been killed and at least nine injured, the attorneys state. Despite a September 2011 Road Safety Audit that chronicled the road’s many safety issues, the road remains largely unchanged from its condition when Ella Neier was killed, the statement notes.
The Road Safety Audit addressed moving utility poles, emphasizing ongoing routine maintenance, adding new signage, adding new guardrails with crashworthy end terminals, providing edge line pavement markings, evaluating the need for no-passing markings, trimming vegetation, removing at least one tree, and installing advance pavement marking and signing for the Katy Trail crossing. Many of the recommendations were made based upon guidance from the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the definitive guide to traffic control in the country.
The lawsuit was filed in Warren County Circuit Court. The plaintiffs are represented by Morry Cole, St. Louis, and Steven P. Kuenzel, Washington.
Members of the Washington Highway Transportation Committee, which meets monthly, have been pushing for improvements to Augusta Bottom Road since the 1990s. But little progress has been made due to a lack of funding sources and reluctance by Warren County to spend money to improve the road.