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Wife, mom of Middletown pair killed in I-83 crash sues truck driver, road construction company

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 11/2/18

A lawsuit seeking damages from truck driver Jack Satterfield III and the company he drove for has been filed by Jessica Lybrand of Middletown, whose 24-year-old husband and 16-month old daughter were …

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Wife, mom of Middletown pair killed in I-83 crash sues truck driver, road construction company

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A lawsuit seeking damages from truck driver Jack Satterfield III and the company he drove for has been filed by Jessica Lybrand of Middletown, whose 24-year-old husband and 16-month old daughter were killed in a fiery crash on Interstate 83 on Oct. 12.

Lybrand during an Oct. 31 press conference in Philadelphia pledged to advocate for an end to drunken driving, and for stricter safety laws regarding truck drivers and enhanced safety precautions for construction zones on highways, according to an account posted by PennLive.

“People need to stop drinking and driving like it’s nothing. You had a drink, you had two drinks, you’re over the legal limit. Don’t drive. It took my entire world away from me,” she said, according to the PennLive video.

Jessica Lybrand speaks at Oct. 31 press conference in Philadelphia

 

The lawsuit filed Oct. 31 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County also seeks damages from J.D. Eckman Inc. of Atglen, Pennsylvania, the company awarded the $104.7 million contract for the I-83 construction project.

According to the lawsuit, husband Zachary and daughter Elliana were stopped because of the construction project in traffic northbound on 83 near Union Deposit Road when the Volvo tractor-trailer driven by Satterfield slammed into the back of the Lybrand car.

The lawsuit alleges that the contractor “carelessly, negligently, and recklessly failed to protect drivers with adequate warnings of the alterations they had caused in traffic patterns” and that Eckman “created hazards that caused traffic (to) slow and/or stop suddenly and with inadequate warning.”

The lawsuit also refers to Satterfield having told State Police he drank five double-shot margaritas and had two or three beers earlier that same day at a Mexican restaurant in New Jersey.

Satterfield’s blood-alcohol level was “well over” the legal limit of 0.08 in Pennsylvania as he was speeding toward the stopped vehicles on the highway, according to the lawsuit filed by the Philadelphia law firm of Feldman, Shepherd, Wohlgelernter, Tanner, Weinstock & Dodig. The road was dry.

Satterfield took no evasive measures or even slowed down before colliding with the rear of Lybrand’s car. The crash “was so violent that it started a chain reaction of impacts involving a total of 12 vehicles,” the lawsuit says.

The Lybrand car caught fire with Zachary and Elliana trapped inside. Both “suffered in anguish” before they both died of smoke inhalation and thermal burns, according to the lawsuit.

 

Jessica Lybrand speaks at Oct. 31 press conference in Philadelphia

 

The same accident also killed 22-year-old Messiah College senior Ethan Van Bochoven of Pompton Plains, New Jersey, who was in another car.

The lawsuit cites police accounts of how Satterfield left his cab after the crash and fled, crossing over the southbound lane on I-83 and running to the parking lot of a nearby hotel “where he watched the aftermath of the mayhem he had caused,” in the words of Lybrand’s lawyers.

Satterfield, 29, of McComb, Mississippi, was arrested Oct. 13 and is charged with three counts of homicide by vehicle, three counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, three counts of accidents involving death or personal injury, and three counts of accidents involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed. He is also charged with DUI-general impairment.

Satterfield waas denied bail and is being held in Dauphin County Prison. He is scheduled for a Nov. 16 preliminary hearing before District Judge Joseph S. Lindsey.

The lawsuit notes Satterfield was driving without a valid commercial driver’s license. His license was suspended after Satterfield pleaded guilty in Mississippi to possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Satterfield also at the time of the accident had an outstanding warrant out for his arrest filed in Cumberland County Court for a fare evasion traffic citation Satterfield received on April 14, according to the lawsuit.

Satterfield was under contract driving for Greentree Logistics, a company in Lakeville, Minnesota, that is also a defendant in the lawsuit filed by Lybrand.

 

Attorney Mark W. Tanner speaks at a press conference for Jessica Lybrand in Philadelphia on Oct. 31.

 

Greentree “knew or should have known of (Satterfield’s) record of irresponsible behavior, unsafe driving and the suspended status of his CDL before employing or contracting with Defendant Satterfield to haul cargo for Defendant Greentree,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit notes that the Colonial Park Fire Department has seen an 80 percent increase in accidents requiring an emergency response along this corridor of I-83 since the construction project began. The finding is backed up by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation data, the lawsuit says.

Weaved throughout the complaint is Jessica Lybrand telling how she and Zachary were planning their first night away from Elliana, to celebrate Jessica’s 21st birthday on the day of the crash.

It would be the longest period that Jessica had ever spent away from Elliana, because Jessica had not returned to work after giving birth to Elliana, the couple’s first and only child.

“My 16-1/2-month-old baby lived for 527 days and that’s it, that’s it,” she said during the press conference, fighting back tears, in the video posted by PennLive.

Elliana would be spending the night at her grandmother’s — Zachary’s mother.

Jessica and Zachary were worried that Elliana would not be able to sleep apart from her parents, so Jessica spent part of Oct. 11 preparing “all the things” that Elliana would need during her first night away from her parents, including “washing her favorite blankets and pajamas, packing her diaper bag and stuffed animals, and cleaning her pillow, which had also been Zach’s childhood pillow,” the lawsuit says.

As the day wore on Oct. 12, it became clear that Jessica and Zachary were running behind schedule in getting ready for the evening.

So Jessica could be ready on time, Zachary agreed to take Elliana to his mother’s house while Jessica stayed home to shower and get dressed.

At about that same time, Satterfield was downing drinks at the Mexican restaurant in New Jersey, the lawsuit says.

Shortly after 7:45 p.m., Jessica kissed her daughter goodbye and told Zachary she loved him.

It would be the last time she ever saw them alive, the lawsuit said.

“I wasn’t in that car and I didn’t help and I’m going to have to live with that,” she said.

The lawsuit seeks “all lawful damages” from the defendants to be awarded to Jessica Lybrand and to Zachary’s mother and father, Marcia Lybrand of Enola and Jeffrey Lybrand of Gardners. The lawsuit does not mention specific dollar amounts being sought.

The next steps in the lawsuit include a process of “aggressive discovery” by which the law firm will seek to identity any other parties that should be held accountable, in addition to the defendants already named, said James P. Faunes, one of the lawyers with the Philadelphia firm who is handling the lawsuit for the Lybrands.

The firm will investigate what Greentree Logistics knew and did not know regarding Satterfield’s driving record and history, and what “procedures and protocols they followed or did not follow” regarding Satterfield, Faunes said.

Finally, the firm will investigate the overall uptick in crashes that has occurred in the I-83 corridor where the accident happened, since the start of the construction project.

Faunes could not say how long it will take for the lawsuit to be resolved. He referred to a comment from Mark Tanner, another lawyer with the firm handling the case, who said during the press conference that 18 months is a typical timeframe for this kind of litigation.