WARREN - A judge Wednesday approved $500,000 settlements in the wrongful death lawsuits filed by surviving family members of three Marine recruits killed in a 2010 chain-reaction crash.
Attorneys in the case announced last month that Nick Strimbu Inc., the Brookfield trucking company that employed the driver causing the Braceville crash, settled all claims for slightly less that $2 million. On Wednesday, Probate Judge Thomas A. Swift approved nearly identical settlements in the three wrongful death cases.
''It was one of the most tragic accidents in Trumbull County history. Strimbu's had no idea who they were hiring at the time. The company came up with out-of-pocket contributions that avoided a possible bankruptcy,'' said attorney Marty White, who represented two of the three Marine recruits.
''How do you distinguish how much each life is worth among these young men?'' asked attorney Mark Gervelis, who represented another recruit who was killed.
Insurance coverage by the company covered $200,000, and the company paid $300,000 toward the settlements.
The March 31, 2010, crash on state Route 5 near the intersection of Burnett Road, claimed the lives of Michael T. Theodore Jr., 19, of Howland; Joshua A. Sherbourne, 21, of Southington; and Zachary Nolen, 19, of Newton Falls.
In both of White's cases involving Sherbourne and Nolen, Swift adjusted the settlements to show more proceeds going to minor family members of the victims. And in Sherborne's case, there was $90,000 in addition from an insurance policy held by a grandparent.
In Gervelis' case involving Theodore, no minors were involved in the settlement.
The three, along with another recruit and a recruiter, were headed to Cleveland to finalize their enlistment papers when the crash occurred in Leavittsburg. Nine people in seven vehicles, including a motorcycle, claimed injuries and damages. Some were dismissed from the lawsuit before it was settled.
Other defendants who suffered injuries and eventually reached settlements included Sgt. Charles Keene of Youngstown, who was driving the recruits to Cleveland, and a fourth recruit, Carl McDermott of Masury, who was seated in the front seat of the car.
Strimbu employed Donald P. Williams of Austintown who was listening to the heavy metal music of Rob Zombie in his semi truck when he plowed into the rear of the victims' car and traveled another 580-feet before applying his brakes. The driver was charged with several counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and assault.
Williams, who was found to have anti-anxiety drugs in his system at the time, was sentenced to 16 years in prison last year.
Several different suits were filed and then consolidated and assigned to Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan and successfully mediated by court Magistrate Anthony Cornicelli over a two-day period in November.