08-08-2005, 09:15 PM #1
Town sued for NOT having a Dive Rescue team
FROM THE AUGUST 9, 2005 ISSUE OF
Last October the rescue squads of the town of Old Saybrook, Ct., were
hailed as heroes for their work in attempting to save Barbara
Connors, 75, of Medfield, Mass., from a Ford Explorer that had
plunged into the Connecticut River. Connors' son-in-law, who had been
at the wheel and who managed to escape from the vehicle on his own,
later told police he accidentally hit the SUV's accelerator,
propelling it through a chain-link fence and into the water below.
But now Connors is suing a long list of officials of the town
(population 1,962) on the grounds that they should have maintained or
funded a specially dedicated and equipped dive rescue team; had they
done so, she would have been rescued from the submerged vehicle in
less than the 29 minutes it actually took, avoiding serious injury.
Through her attorney, Robert Reardon Jr. of New London, she's also
suing the son-in-law. "'I find it extraordinary the town is being
sued in these circumstances,' First Selectman Mike Pace, one of the
defendants, said at Thursday's selectmen's meeting." (Claudia Van
Nes, "Town Sued Over River Rescue", Hartford Courant, Aug. 5; Walt
Platteborze, "Woman 'critical' after being pulled from submerged
SUV", New Haven Register, Oct. 15, 2004).
Woman `critical' after being pulled from submerged SUV
Walt Platteborze, Register Correspondent10/15/2004
Emergency personnel inspect the the vehicle and seawall Thursday.
OLD SAYBROOK — A woman was in critical condition late Thursday after
being trapped in a vehicle that plunged into the Connecticut River at
Saybrook Point, but the driver, who managed to escape, was rescued by
crew members from a nearby schooner.
Barbara Connors, 75, of Medfield, Mass., was in the submerged Ford
Explorer for about 15 to 20 minutes before being pulled to the
surface by police divers, Detective Sgt. Eugean Heiney said.
Connors had no pulse, but a CPR team of police, firefighters
ambulance personnel and paramedics were able to restore a heartbeat
at the scene, Patrolman Michael Spera said. She was in critical
condition late Thursday at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Police said the Ford Explorer carrying Connors and Alan Houser, 70,
of 10 Rose Lane, Old Lyme, jumped the sidewalk that runs along the
bulkhead between the Dock & Dine restaurant and town pavilion,
crashed through a fence and flew about 15 feet into the river.
The incident occurred about 12:49 p.m. The vehicle was completely
submerged in about 10 feet of water when rescue personnel arrived.
The vehicle plunged into the water less than two hours after high
tide, which meant the level next to the bulkhead was relatively deep.
Houser, the driver, got out of the sinking vehicle. He was hauled
from the 60-degree water by two crew members of the schooner
Quinnipiack, an educational vessel of New Haven's Sound School that
was in the vicinity with a group of high school students aboard.
The crew members, Jason Hansen, 23, whose hometown wasn't available,
and Shawn Forgette, 19, of West Haven, went to Houser's rescue in a
ship's boat, police said. Neither man could be reached for comment.
Heiney said police hadn't yet determined why the Explorer went into
the river, and hadn't yet been able to speak with Houser, who was
treated at Middlesex Medical Center Shoreline in Essex and released.
The relationship of Connors and Houser was unclear, Heiney said.
Parking spaces in the large municipal lot facing the river are a
favorite mid-day spot for area residents who like to eat lunch in
their vehicles while enjoying the view across to Old Lyme.
Police received several cell phone calls alerting them of the
Joseph Bergonzi, a former Chester selectman and firefighter who was
having lunch at the point with his wife, said "It was the (fastest)
response I've ever seen … they were here in a heartbeat."
Town Fire Chief Jeff True, Spera and Officer Michael Gardner;
Firefighter Chris Cestaros; and Essex Assistant Fire Chief Andy
Kresley went into the water to search for the vehicle.
Old Saybrook Officer Jay Rankin and state police Trooper David Todd,
in wetsuits and scuba gear, then entered the water and pulled Connors
from the vehicle.
Heiney said the rescue effort was aided by a truck from Eric's Towing
in Old Saybrook, which used a tow rope to pull the vehicle to the
surface and out.
A current of 1 to 2 mph made the rescue more difficult, Heiney said.
Spera said the police department was "very pleased with the rescue
effort by all the agencies involved, as well as the citizens (the
Quinnipiack crew) who helped us." Often in such efforts, the help of
citizens is critical, he said.
Also taking part in the rescue were the Old Saybrook, Essex and Old
Lyme ambulance associations, paramedics from Middlesex and Lawrence &
Memorial hospitals, the state Department of Environmental Protection
marine division and the U.S. Coast Guard, police said.
It was second tragedy at that location in just more than a week. The
body of a Groton woman was found in the same area Oct. 5. Her death
was ruled a suicide by drowning.
Town Sued Over River Rescue
Woman Trapped In Car Driven Off Point Faults Lack Of Dive Team
August 5, 2005
By CLAUDIA VAN NES, Courant Staff Writer
OLD SAYBROOK -- Barbara Connors, 76, rescued after a car driven by
her son-in-law plunged into the Connecticut River last October, is
suing a long list of town officials for damages.
"I find it extraordinary the town is being sued in these
circumstances," First Selectman Mike Pace, one of the defendants,
said at Thursday's selectmen's meeting.
The town's insurance company will represent Pace; park and recreation
commission members; Police Chief Ed Mosca; Public Works Director
Larry Bonin; Building Inspector Donald Lucas; Town Planner Christine
Nelson; and Chester Slododosky, who the suit says was the zoning
enforcement officer at the time, but had retired prior to the
Also being sued is Alan Hauser, the son-in-law who lives with
Connor's daughter in Old Lyme. Hauser told police he accidentally hit
the accelerator of his Ford Explorer, which was running and in gear,
causing the vehicle to jump the walk and crash through the chain-link
fence that runs along the river at town-owned Saybrook Point.
Hauser had driven his mother-in-law to the Point Oct. 14 to have
lunch with her.
In the intent to sue filed by Connor's attorney, Robert Reardon Jr.
of New London, late last year, the rescuers were named - police
officers and volunteers - but are not included in the actual suit.
Instead, added to the suit are new accusations that the town failed
to maintain a rescue dive team and refused to fund a team, causing
Connors to spend 29 minutes submerged in the water until divers could
get to her.
"There were some very heroic acts going on that day," acknowledged
Reardon Thursday. Indeed, at a ceremony in town hall honoring the
police, firefighters and others who repeatedly dove without equipment
to try to rescue Connors, her family attended and thanked those
But, Reardon contended, divers at the ready would have meant "these
people didn't have to risk their lives and my client could have been
rescued in a timely manner."
Reardon said Connors, who had been living on her own in
Massachusetts, has severe brain damage from the incident and lives
with round-the-clock care in a nursing home in Waterford that she is
never expected to leave.
The suit also charges the fence should have been stronger, the Point
patrolled at lunchtime by police and more signs warning of "unsafe
Pace told fellow selectmen the suit would be fought "vigorously by
the town," which he pointed out not only provided scores of rescuers,
but also sustained costs in needed repairs.
Dive Rescue International provides training and equipment to public safety agencies worldwide, since 1977.
For more information, visit Dive Rescue International online at:
08-09-2005, 11:20 AM #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2001
- Lawng Eyeland, New Yawk, USA
Geez...bad enough she's suing the town but also the son-in-law too...makes you wonder why he "accidentally" hit the accelerator...think there's a few other guys out there who might have done the same thing with
their mother in law buckled into the front seat...
Just my 2 cents...Stay Safe...and remember, if you're gonna crash into the river with your mother in law, make sure the town you do it in has a dive team or she'll have the law firm of HowdaWe, CheatEm & Win suing you...
08-14-2005, 08:02 AM #3
- Join Date
- May 2000
- Wheaton IL
Everyone gets named in a lawsuit. CT law may differ but in Illinois their is no law requiring a fire department or municipality to form or maintain special rescue services. We have even had a town that was ALS switch back to BLS service because of cost issues.
We have a water rescue team and it is hard work by all of our members to maintain proficiency, for a volunteer agency it would be much harder.
Obviously the system they have works because she is still alive, could it work better? Don't know enough to make that call. The guys of Old Saybrook, Ct. should be commended and I hope the courts tell the plantiff where to go.
03-20-2007, 12:37 PM #4
- Join Date
- Dec 2002
- Townsend, MA
All for free
This is rediculous. OK I see that yea they are on a river but the majority of the countries towns have some sort of body of water in them. Give us the funding and we can do just about anything. People want us to do everything from firefighting to ALS to all areas of technical rescue all with the best equipment avalible with fully staffed stations, and they dont want to pay for it. Towns people want it all for free. This suit should get interesting as it goes through the courts. I will agree great job to those guys that made and attempted the rescue with no gear. They did all they could with what they had to work with and they shold definitly be commended for thier actions.
Last edited by CaptDon; 03-20-2007 at 12:39 PM.
03-20-2007, 01:53 PM #5
- Join Date
- Apr 2005
- Las Vegas,Nevada
Sounds like the same sort of "ninny" that sued McDonalds over the spilled hot coffee that wasn't labeld"Hot, may cause hurt and pain if spilled on ones' lap".
03-20-2007, 02:49 PM #6
- Join Date
- Nov 1999
After reading the facts of the McDonald's coffee lawsuit, I'd say she had a legitimate reason to sue-
"The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.
03-20-2007, 06:42 PM #7
How do you "maintain" a dive team? Not as if you ca say to 5 guys.."okay, tomorrow your all divers and if you don't want to go down there, tough, we'll attach weights to make you". Another example of the law being an arseUnited Kingdom branch, IACOJ.
03-21-2007, 11:16 AM #8
Outrageous yes, but WHO is actually doing the suing ?
The article stated that the victim had brain dammage and was not expected to leave the facility where she now lives. Sounds like some lawyers are "suing" on her behalf.
So what is the expected outcome? Are they seeking monetary awards, so that maybe the town that could not afford to keep a team "at the ready" will now have to pay damages too?
Why not donate that money to the department so that they might have more or better gear to provide this type of rescue.
It does certainly sound like frivolous litigation to me.I.A.C.O.J. "The Cork"
03-21-2007, 02:57 PM #9
- Join Date
- Oct 2006
Aside from the general fact that overlawyered.com is an hysterical propaganda vehicle whose output should be viewed with a healthy skepticism, you should particularly question this piece.
Old Saybrook has a year-round population of 10,000, which doubles in the summer. Not 1,900. Could it be that the good folks at overlawyered.com wanted to make the situation seem more egregious than it is? Or are they just incompetent? You make the call.
03-27-2007, 09:26 AM #10
- Join Date
- Nov 2003
Has this case been heard, or is it still in the courts?
03-27-2007, 01:47 PM #11
A town of 1900 with a dive team????
That better be one rich little town.
Around here the RCMP have official responsibility for dive rescue, and thier response time is easily a half hour. One of our sister departments has some rec dive certified members, but no official responsibility aside from SRT.Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!
03-27-2007, 02:15 PM #12
Compare it to this old FD liability example:
"The building burned to the ground because we didn't have enough water supply."
That excuse only works if the water supply was limited because of some recent, unpredictable, and uncommon event. Otherwise the question becomes: "You knew that your water supplies were inadequate for ten years before the fire ever started; why didn't you do anything about it then?" The same class of argument could be applied.
Like it or not, the public has come to expect that FD's actually not only show up but that they do a good job when they do..."Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.
03-27-2007, 08:05 PM #13
We've been telling our borough for years that we lack adequate water supply. Our last really big job was at an old industrial site along the river so we were able to draft. But they still haven't added the hydrants we requested.
So will they be responsible the next time we have a call there?Steve Dragon
FFII, Fire Instructor II, Fire Officer I, Fire Appartus Driver Operator Certified
Volunteers are never "off duty".
05-11-2008, 12:12 AM #14
Woman settles rescue-workers suit for $870,000
Accident victim had claimed severe brain injuries
By M. MATTHEW CLARK , Published on 5/9/2008
Old Saybrook - Barbara Connors - the woman who sued the town and the rescue workers who, four years ago, pulled her from the Connecticut River - has reached an out-of-court settlement for $870,000.
New London attorney Robert Reardon, who represents Connors, said there would be no further comment other than a press release issued Thursday, a condition of a mutual agreement among all the parties of the lawsuit.
The family offered to settle for $1 million a year ago, but the town and other parties rejected the offer. James Williams, the town's attorney, declined to comment Thursday.
Connors was the passenger in a Ford Explorer being driven by her son-in-law, Alan Hauser, that crashed through a chain link fence at Saybrook Point into the Connecticut River on Oct. 14, 2004. The suit contended Connors suffered severe brain injuries from being underwater for nearly 30 minutes before police and firefighters eventually extricated her from the vehicle.
It was raining that day and visibility in the water was zero. Hauser told police at the time that while he was trying to park the Explorer, the truck“surged forward” and when he went to hit the brake his foot slipped and punched the accelerator instead, sending the heavy vehicle airborne into the 60-degree waters.
When the then-75-year-old woman was finally pulled from the water, she had no pulse. As she was rushed to Essex Shoreline Medical Center, emergency workers resuscitated Connors before Life Star helicopter flew her to Yale-New Haven Hospital where she stayed on life support for three days until she started breathing on her own.
In the weeks following the accident, the town's police and fire departments were praised for their heroic efforts in saving Connors' life. Fifty people gathered at Saybrook Point two weeks after the accident to honor the emergency crews in a formal awards ceremony.
But eight months later, Connors and her family had filed suit against the town, First Selectman Michael Pace, police Chief Edmund Mosca, and even Hauser. In previous news stories, Reardon said it was common for family members in auto accidents to sue each other in order to collect insurance.
Pace said Thursday he could not comment for this story.
The suit contended that the accident never would have happened had the town installed concrete barriers at Saybrook Point, a 2.3-acre waterfront park that underwent improvements in 2000. Court papers also alleged that police and fire didn't act fast enough in their rescue, claiming that Connors wouldn't have been underwater so long if the town had its own dive team.
The architect and engineer that redesigned the park were eventually added to the suit.
Karen Hauser of Old Lyme, Connors' daughter, led the lawsuit, because her mother now lives in a nursing home in Waterford where she suffers from dementia, which the family said was caused by the accident.
Last edited by BladesRobinson; 05-11-2008 at 12:35 AM.
05-11-2008, 12:34 AM #15
Settlement In Old Saybrook Lawsuit
By MAGDALENE PEREZ | Courant Staff Writer
May 9, 2008
OLD SAYBROOK - — A woman who was rescued after her son-in-law drove his car into the Connecticut River has reached an $870,000 out-of-court settlement, an attorney for the woman said Thursday.
Barbara Connors, of Medfield, Mass., was trapped in her son-in-law's Ford Explorer for 29 minutes after he drove it over a sidewalk, through a chain-link fence and into the river at Saybrook Point in 2004. Connors, who was 75 at the time of the incident, later sued the son-in-law, Alan Hauser, and a long list of town officials.
After the suit was filed, the engineer and an architect involved in an improvement project at Saybrook Point in 2000 were added as defendants, according to a statement by Robert Reardon Jr., Connors' lawyer.
The suit alleged that the town's failure to maintain a rescue dive team caused Connors to remain submerged in the water until divers could get to her. It also charged that the fence should have been stronger, the town-owned Point should have been patrolled at lunchtime and there should be more signs warning of "unsafe conditions."
Connors' lawyer said at the time the suit was filed that Connors had severe brain damage from the incident and was living with round-the-clock care in a nursing home in Waterford.
The incident happened in October 2004, when Hauser drove his mother-in-law to Saybrook Point for lunch.
After the SUV drove into the river, two crewmen in a schooner saw Hauser in the water and pulled him onto a rubber dingy. They then lent the boat to town police and other rescuers, including fire, police, state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Coast Guard workers.
Two divers rescued Connors by smashing a window in the vehicle and dragging her onto the dinghy.
The town's portion of the settlement is covered by insurance, Pace said. He could not comment further because the settlement is subject to a confidentiality agreement. Lawyers for Hauser and the town did not respond to phone calls Thursday.
05-11-2008, 09:02 AM #16
- Join Date
- Oct 2006
Lawsuits don't suprise me much anymore when they claim that everything and everyone else is responsible for the position the victim put him or herself in.
Many years ago a neighboring fire dept got a call to a fully involved structure fire at the far north end of their response area. The house had been fully involved for a while and had started to die down. The homeowner had not made it out and was obviously dead.
That dept was sued for not responding in time to save the families father. It didn't matter that no one called it in until full involvement and the father was dead by the time dispatch got the call.
Then my dept was sued because we didn't respond. No matter that no one called us to respond, or that we were not even needed.
The case was quickly dropped when the lawyers for both citites being sued said they would fight this to the end.
Some lawyers will sue for anything, no matter how dumb it may be.
05-11-2008, 09:27 AM #17
A community expectation...
What I have found interesting about this entire scenario is there is an expectation by communities for a dive team to be available, and when one isn't immediately available, a law suit can be filed.
In this case, it wasn't simply a "dive team" but a "Dive Rescue Team" that was expected, so the "Dive Recovery Team" doesn't meet the expectation. In the first sixty to ninety minutes, citizens are expecting a "rescue mode" response and when they don't get it, they get angry, may attempt the rescue their selves (placing them at risk), or file law suits after the fact.
I believe $870,000 would go a long ways towards funding a dive team and/or placing barriers up along waterfront roadway.
Last edited by BladesRobinson; 05-11-2008 at 09:30 AM.
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