BANGOR, Maine — The widow of a man killed two years ago in the Fourth of July parade when an antique firetruck struck him after its brakes failed has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Penobscot County Superior Court.
Lorena Fenlason of Holden sued the city of Bangor, the Bangor Breakfast Kiwanis Club, which organized the parade, and Patrick Heathcote, the firefighter who was driving the truck on July 4, 2013.
Wallace L. Fenlason of Holden died after he was knocked from the tractor he was riding when the brakes on the antique firetruck failed and it struck the 63-year-old man. Fenlason routinely rode his antique farm tractor in local parades. The parade was rerouted that day onto Water Street from its traditional route down Main Street to Exchange Street due to an armed standoff with police on Park Street behind city hall.
The lawsuit claims the city, the club and Heathcote were negligent and violated safety rules that caused the antique fire truck to strike Fenlason.
“The farm tractor was toppled and Mr. Fenlason crushed by the firetruck, resulting in Mr. Fenlason’s death,” the lawsuit, filed last week, states.
“[The] City of Bangor was responsible for knowing, understanding, implementing and meeting safety rules governing ownership, maintenance and use of its firetruck on public roads,” the lawsuit alleges. “[The city] … chose not to perform competent, reasonable and necessary maintenance on its firetruck before exposing the community to the firetruck on public roads.”
A Bangor police report released about a month after the accident concluded that insufficient brake fluid caused the antique braking system on the city’s 1930 McCann Pumper to fail. Heathcote pushed so hard on the brakes while trying to stop the 12,800-pound pumper that he left pedal indents on the floorboards, according to a previously published report.
“The accident was a terrible and unfortunate tragedy for everyone involved,” Bangor attorney Bernard Kubetz, who represents the firefighter, said Thursday in an email. “Patrick Heathcote hopes that this lawsuit will be amicably resolved.”
Fred Badger, the Bangor attorney who represents the city, echoed that sentiment Thursday.
“This was a terrible tragedy for those involved,” he said in an email. “The city hopes to amicably resolve the lawsuit.”
The complaint in the lawsuit states that as the organizer of the event, the Breakfast Kiwanis Club “chose not to know, understand, follow and/or implement important safety rules intended to protect the community and parade participants and prevent needless harm, injury or death.”
Bangor attorney David C. King, who represents the club, denied that allegation on Thursday in an email.
“Everyone associated with the Bangor Breakfast Kiwanis Club expresses compassion towards the Fenlason family,” King said. “We have not yet seen the complaint, but the Kiwanis Club does not believe it was careless or negligent in its involvement with the Fourth of July parade.”
Lorena Fenlason is seeking unspecified compensatory damages including funeral expenses, emotional distress, loss of comfort, society and companionship and punitive damages.
Her attorney, Daniel Kagan of Berman & Simmons, with offices in Lewiston and Bangor, said it is important to the Fenlason family that a similar accident never happen again.
“What needs to be resolved is where responsibility lies,” Kagan said Wednesday. “We need to figure out where mistakes were made. There is no doubt that the City of Bangor would like to do the right thing.”
The city, the Kiwanis club and Heathcote are covered by insurance.
BDN writer Nok-Noi Ricker contribute to this report.