BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. -- Families of Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, the two 17-year-old Shenendehowa High School students killed in a tragic 2012 Northway crash are suing Dennis Drue, the driver who caused the wreck, Drue’s mother, the Colonie restaurant where he drank before the crash and others.
Lawyers representing both families filed separate lawsuits on Thursday in Saratoga County Court, claiming Koto Japanese restaurant, where Drue, visibly intoxicated, drank before the crash was partially at fault. The lawsuit also mentions Drue’s mother, Gail Pendergast, who owned the Volvo he was driving when he struck Stewart’s Ford Explorer on Dec. 1, 2012, between the Twin Bridges and Exit 8 of the Northway.
The complaint alleges that the Japanese restaurant and its employees served liquor to Drue when he was already visibly intoxicated, in violation of New York State’s “Dram Shop Act,” and that the deadly crash occurred minutes after Drue left the restaurant.
The lawsuit claims Drue was served two double gin-and-tonics and another regular sized drink during dinner at Koto, where he dined with friends. Around 10:20 p.m. Dec. 1, 2012, Drue was traveling at about 80 miles per hour when he slammed his 2004 Volvo into the back of Stewart’s 2000 Ford Explorer, which was traveling in the right lane.
The impact caused Stewart’s vehicle to flip multiple times, killing him and trapping his girlfriend, Bailey Wind, then 17, in the passenger’s seat. Wind suffered broken vertebrae and lost five teeth in the crash. She has since undergone multiple surgeries. Matt Hardy and his girlfriend, Deanna Rivers, both seniors at the time, were in the back seat of Stewart’s SUV. Hardy was partially thrown from the vehicle and suffered multiple broken bones, among other injuries. Rivers was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene.
Drue, 24, is currently serving a five- to 15-year sentence in state prison for his guilty plea on a 58-count indictment, 52 of them felonies. The charges include aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault. Drue will serve at least five years of his sentence before being eligible for parole.
The four high-schoolers were travelling home from a basketball game at the Times Union Center between Siena College and the University at Albany.
Prosecutors found Drue had also smoked marijuana before the crash and was texting shortly before the crash.
Both lawsuits ask for a jury to determine compensation for the families. Wind and Hardy have previously filed lawsuits against Drue in 2013, asking for $1 million and punitive damages if a default judgement is reached against Drue, according to Saratoga County Court documents.
Lauren Mineau covers local city news, politics and more for the Saratogian. Reach the author at email@example.com