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Families Of 2012 Northway Crash Victims File Lawsuits Against Driver, Others

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The families of two teenage victims killed in a 2012 car crash have brought lawsuits against a man now in prison for crimes associated with their deaths. 

In December, Dennis Drue was sentenced to 5 to 15 years for 58 counts associated with the Saratoga County car crash that killed Shenendehowa High School students Christopher Stewart and Deanna Rivers and injured Matthew Hardy and Bailey Wind in December 2012.

In court, Drue admitted fault for killing the two students and for operating his vehicle under the influence of drugs and alcohol. At the time of the Northway wreck, Drue had previously been issued multiple traffic violations and had had his license suspended five times.

On Thursday, lawsuits were filed in Saratoga County Court on behalf of Stewarts’ and Rivers’ families seeking more answers about the incident.

Albany attorney John Powers is representing the family and estate of Stewart.

“Because of the abrupt way in which the criminal proceedings ending, with Drue pleading guilty to everything he was charged with, there were a lot of questions that were left unanswered that would have presumably been brought out at the trial had the criminal trial proceeded," said Powers. "So the only recourse left of the family is to bring the civil proceeding and bring the testimony of some of the people involved, and to find out exactly what happened, and to hold people accountable in their failure to act in this case."

The family and estate of Deanna Rivers is represented by Latham attorney Kevin Luibrand.

In addition to Drue, both lawsuits mention Drue’s mother, Gail Pendergast, the owner of the vehicle Drue was driving when the accident occurred, and Koto Japanese Steakhouse, along with a bartender and server there. Drew was visibly intoxicated at the Colonie restaurant before leaving and causing the accident minutes later.

On Thursday afternoon, Dan Yu, a man who identified himself as the current manager of the restaurant, said he was “shocked” about the news of the lawsuit, and said the restaurant came under new ownership in October.

Powers said the lawsuit is against the corporation that held the liquor license at the time the sales to Drue occurred in 2012.

“What the relationship between the old corporation and the new corporation that owns Koto is something we're going to try to find out as part of this lawsuit," said Powers.

New York’s “Dram Shop act” holds businesses that sell alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons liable.

The lawsuits do not seek a specified monetary amount.

Mike Stewart is the father of Chistopher Stewart.

“We don’t have a specified amount in this suit. We're kind of just leaving that up to the courts and juries to decide what if any damages are going to be incurred. We know that it's two years after and it still doesn't make it any easier," said Stewart.

Attorney Stephen Coffey, who represented Drue in the criminal case, was not available for comment.

A lawsuit was filed on behalf Hardy and Wind in 2013. 

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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