Source: Idaho Mtn. Express (Ketchum)
Author: Greg Moore
School district sued over fatal crash
Complaint alleges recklessness by Carey driving instructor
KETCHUM - A lawsuit filed against the Blaine County School District claims that a two-car accident that killed Carey resident Austin Hennefer, 15, last fall was caused by a district driving instructor's decision to practice three-point turns on an icy highway with poor visibility. The accident occurred on Oct. 26, 2010, at about 7:30 a.m., on U.S. Highway 20 about two miles west of the junction with state Highway 75. A 1996 Buick Century driven by Hennefer was struck on the driver's side door by a westbound 1993 Honda Accord driven by Gooding resident Sergio Lopez-Rodriguez. Lopez-Rodriguez and driving instructor Jeffrey A. Mecham, who was in the car with Hennefer, were injured. Following an investigation by the Blaine County Sheriff's Office, the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office opted not to file criminal charges against either party involved in the crash. The wrongful death suit was filed in Blaine County 5th District Court on Sept. 21 by Hennefer's parents, Dennis and Maryann Hennefer, for unspecified damages. It also names Mecham and Lopez-Rodriguez as defendants. The suit claims that Mecham was teaching a Carey School driver education class on the highway at about 7:30 a.m. when he told Hennefer to make a three-point turn "where the roadway was extremely icy and slick." A three-point turn—also called a K-turn or a Y-turn—is generally used when there is insufficient room to make a U-turn. "Mecham's decision to conduct driving training classes that day and to practice three-point turns at that location was willful and reckless ... ," the suit contends. It also claims that Lopez-Rodriguez was driving too fast for the conditions. The complaint further notes that the Buick being used for the class did not have studded tires. Director of Communications Heather Crocker said Monday that the School District has no comment at this time regarding the lawsuit.