In a tragic incident that has sent shockwaves throughout the community, families of three teenagers killed in a crash last year have moved to file a lawsuit against Yakima County. The lawsuit alleges that the design of the road was inherently hazardous, directly contributing to the fatal accident. The family of another teen, who tragically lost their arm in the same crash, has joined the cause, demonstrating a united front against what they perceive to be a grave negligence on the part of the county.
The legal battle, now gathering momentum, is being represented by Tamaki Law. The hearing is set for September 30, 2024, in Benton County, and it is poised to be a significant one that might reshape the nature of roadway designs and safety regulations in Washington State and potentially across the nation.
Megan Hale, the attorney leading the charge on behalf of the grieving families, emphasized that the questionable design of the road was apparent even to laymen. “It does not take an engineer to look at this sloped roadway and be able to tell that it is not reasonably safe, as is required under Washington law,” said Hale. She further added, “My clients are hopeful that through this lawsuit, changes will be made in Yakima County to ensure this never happens again.”
The horrific accident occurred on the 3700 block of Shields Rd, a gravel route located near Harrah, running in the north-south direction. Alarmingly, the road had an unposted speed limit of 50 miles per hour, a factor that many believe compounded the risks associated with its sloped design.
On that fateful day, August 5, 2021, Joel Vasquez-Vallares and six of his co-workers, all aged between 16 and 18, were out on their lunch break. Tragedy struck when Vasquez-Vallares lost control of his pickup. The vehicle came over a hill and, owing to the steep downward tilt of the road, went airborne. The momentum caused the truck to veer off the path, striking a county sign before rolling over multiple times. Four of the young occupants were thrown out of the vehicle, and the truck ultimately came to a halt upside down.
The heart of the lawsuit revolves around the claim that the steep downward gradient of the road, coupled with the unposted speed limit, culminated in creating perilous conditions that led to the devastating accident. It suggests that had the road been designed with proper safety considerations or had clear speed limit postings, the incident could have been prevented.
In a separate but related legal proceeding, Vasquez Vallares faced the consequences of that tragic day. In July 2023, he pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and one of vehicular assault. The court has since sentenced him to seven and a half years of incarceration.
The entire episode serves as a somber reminder of the profound consequences that oversight in infrastructural design and planning can have on everyday lives. As the families seek justice and change, their actions resonate with a larger community that hopes such tragedies can be averted in the future through proactive measures and responsible governance.
Have you or a loved one experienced the trauma of an accident? Navigating the aftermath can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Please reach out to Tamaki Law for dedicated assistance and guidance during these challenging times. Our experienced team is here to support you and ensure that your rights are protected. Don’t hesitate; give us a call at (800) 801-9564. Your well-being is our utmost priority.