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Speeding, not absent light, caused fatal accident, engineer testifies

By Elisabeth Arriero

earriero@charlotteobserver

A speeding motorist, not Crescent Resources’ failure to install a traffic signal, was responsible for the deadly 2009 crash that killed three people in southwestern Mecklenburg County, an accident reconstruction engineer testified on behalf of the company Monday.

The civil case centers on an accident in which driver Tyler Stasko was speeding when he rammed into a Mercedes driven by Winthrop University English professor Cindy Furr as she tried to turn left onto N.C. 49 from the Riverpointe community. Furr and her 2-year-old daughter, Macke, died in the 2009 crash. Hunter Holt, 13, a passenger in Stasko’s car, died the next day.

Stasko was convicted of three counts of involuntary manslaughter in February and sentenced to at least three years and nine months in prison. The judge imposed a sentence of 15 months to 18 months for each of the three deaths.

Furr’s husband, Steve Price, and Hunter’s parents, Dan and Lisa Holt, sued Crescent. They accused the development company of negligence for not installing traffic signals at the intersection that it had widened into multiple lanes for its Palisades community. City and state transportation officials had asked Crescent several times to pay for the light.

In their lawsuit, Price and the Holts say a signal would have made a difference. They are asking for $5 million for the estates of each of the three victims.

But reconstruction engineer Brian Anders concluded that, under a number of different scenarios, Furr’s car would not have been hit if Stasko hadn’t been speeding that day. If Stasko hadn’t been speeding, Anders testified, “They don’t get there at the same time, therefore the collision does not happen.”

During cross-examination, Charlotte lawyer Amanda Mingo, representing the Holts, suggested that a traffic signal would have given Stasko more reaction time. A light would have made the intersection visible from a farther distance than an unmarked intersection, she said.

Traffic engineers have said Stasko should have been able to see Furr’s car in the intersection – even without a traffic signal – from as far away as 648 feet.

When Mingo showed Anders pictures of the intersection with its present-day traffic signal, Anders was able to accurately say what color the signal was from 900 feet.

Before dismissing the jury at 4:45 p.m. Monday, Superior Court Judge Bob Ervin told them that he expected the courtroom to be “in a position to start closing arguments” sometime Tuesday morning.

Staff writer David Perlmutt contributed.

Arriero: 704-804-2637; On Twitter: @earriero
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