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Two more suits filed in 2007 Pine Valley crash

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DUI crash killed one, injured five

By Bob White

By BOB WHITE

bwhite@thenewsenterprise.com

 ELIZABETHTOWN – Two lawsuits filed in Hardin Circuit Court last week claim businesses at an Elizabethtown country club are among a dozen parties responsible for a DUI crash last year that killed a woman, injured four others and resulted in a man being sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.

The suits, filed separately by Brandie Benningfield and Hardin County EMS worker Carl D. Akin III, allege servers and management of Pine Valley Country Club, 3-Putt Willie’s and an independently managed restaurant within the same complex sold alcohol to an “already intoxicated” man whom they “should have known … would be operating a vehicle.”

Anthony Wayne Benningfield was in the driver’s seat Nov. 24, 2007, leaving 3-Putt Willie’s with his wife, Brandie, and a passenger, Katrina Polston, when the car collided with a patient-occupied southbound ambulance on U.S. 31W.

The crash occurred less than a mile from the lounge. Police said Benningfield ran a red light prior the collision. The wreck left Polston, 27, dead and Benningfield’s wife and Akin, who was on board the ambulance, seriously injured. Benningfield, Hardin County EMS ambulance driver Jason Thompson, and a patient on board all suffered minor injuries during the crash.

Brandie Benningfield is suing her husband and the ambulance driver, in addition to an array of owners and managers of the country club, its restaurant and lounge.

Her husband pleaded guilty in September to manslaughter, assault, three counts of wanton endangerment and driving under the influence in exchange for a 25-year sentence on top of seven years he was sentenced to shortly after the wreck for violating probation by drinking alcohol.

In addition to parties sued by Benningfield’s wife, Akin also has filed civil claims against the Kentucky Association of Counties and a pair of insurance companies in an attempt to obtain “benefits from underinsured motorists.”

Akin did not file a claim against the ambulance driver.

According to Akin’s complaint, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and a left wrist fracture. Akin and Brandie Benningfield were airlifted to University Hospital in Louisville after the wreck. Akin was released from the hospital shortly thereafter, but Benningfield, faced with life-threatening injuries, remained hospitalized for weeks.

The two suits filed last week follow a claim Polston family members filed against Benningfield in May. As with Brandie Benningfield’s claim against the ambulance driver, the Polston suit states Thompson was negligent and carelessly operating the ambulance when the wreck occurred.

Elizabethtown Police Department spokesman Virgil Willoughby said the ambulance was not “running code” – using lights and sirens — at the time of the wreck. Estimated speed of the ambulance prior to the collision was not recorded in digital formats accessible Monday afternoon, Willoughby said.

The News-Enterprise has requested a copy of the official traffic collision report from EPD.

Jeremy Winton, attorney for Jerry Polston (Polston v. Benningfield), declined to comment on the case Monday.

Marshall F. Kaufman III, attorney for Brandie Benningfield, and John Hatcher Jr., attorney for Akin, did not return phone calls by Monday afternoon.

Akin and Thompson continue to work for Hardin County EMS. There have been no disciplinary actions against Thompson relating to last year’s wreck, according to director Ira Dyer.

Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.