A Buffalo firefighter and his fiancee, both seriously hurt when a drunken driver ran them over on the North Tonawanda waterfront last year, are suing the driver – and the city.
Ronaldo C. Parker and Darnelle Brady charge in a State Supreme Court lawsuit that North Tonawanda was negligent in not having barriers, a situation that allowed the intoxicated Anthony D. Regalla to drive his vehicle across the walkway along the Erie Canal bank June 20.
Regalla, 48, of River Road, Wheatfield, pleaded guilty Feb. 26 to aggravated vehicular assault and driving while intoxicated. He faces three to nine years in prison when he is sentenced in Niagara County Court May 6.
Brady, 42, suffered three bone fractures in her left leg, while Parker, 49, had a compound fracture of the left foot and ankle, according to attorney Samuel J. Capizzi.
Brady “has had a number of surgical procedures and probably will face a few more,” Capizzi said. “Both are having ongoing difficulties.”
He said the city bears some responsibility for the crash because there were no barricades, railing, signs or pavement markings from Sweeney Street to the walkway.
“Certainly it was a tragic accident. The city has no liability for that,” City Attorney Shawn P. Nickerson said. “It was a tragic accident by a drunk driver.”
Capizzi suggested that barrel-shaped concrete structures about three feet high might have prevented Regalla’s car from careening onto the footpath.
Nickerson asserted that court precedents protect the city in the case.
“We’re entirely insulated from allegations of negligent design,” he said.
Regalla, who had just left an Oliver Street bar by backing into a parked vehicle, was southbound on Oliver, approaching Sweeney Street. He tried to turn onto Sweeney but was going too fast and went over the curb and across a strip of grass and the path before striking Parker and Brady.
Regalla’s vehicle then crashed into the canal. He and a female passenger were rescued by a witness.
A blood sample showed Regalla’s blood-alcohol content was 0.25 percent, more than three times the legal threshold.