September 3, 2015

We all make mistakes as parents, but one Scarsdale, New York, man made a particularly egregious error in judgment that cost three Pennsylvania teens their lives and left his daughter in a “really dark and nasty place,” according to her attorney.

It all happened at the end of August 2014 when the man let his 15-year-old daughter, who didn’t yet have a driver’s license, drive his SUV. She took along a group of five friends to get breakfast. As they were driving through Paupack Township in the Poconos, the girl lost control of the vehicle. It crashed and rolled over. Three of the passengers, all 15-year-old boys from the same high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, were killed. The others in the SUV were injured.

To make matters even worse, the 54-year-old father initially lied to investigators and let his daughter take responsibility for the accident. In July, however, he pleaded guilty to three counts of involuntary manslaughter as well as to reckless endangerment.

The judge did not go easy on him. Calling the man’s actions “preventable, irresponsible, reckless, stupid and selfish,” he sentenced him to serve six to 16 years in prison. That’s far more than the 12 to 23 months that his attorney, who says they plan to appeal, was seeking.

Family members of the three boys who were killed also had strong words for the man at the sentencing. One mother said, “Your desire to be the cool dad devastated an entire community.” The uncle of one boy said that the man “basically gave his daughter a gun and put the bullets in it for her.” The defendant apologized in court for his actions.

The girl who was driving the SUV has also acknowledged responsibility for her actions. In juvenile court, the teen was given indefinite probation as well as 300 hours of community service. She must also pay restitution as well as write an essay. Her attorney says that she and her father have not spoken since that fateful day.

Obviously, no amount of money can replace the loss of a child or any loved one. However, surviving family members of those killed by a reckless, negligent, or as in this case, unlicensed driver have every right to seek compensation in civil court for costs associated with the loss as well as for other damages such as pain and suffering.

Source: WPVI-TV, “Dad of 15-year-old who crashed SUV, killing 3 Bucks County teen, sentenced to prison,” Aug. 20, 2015