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$45 MILLION SUIT FILED IN DEATH FROM STEEL COILS

The husband of one of four people killed in a freak accident last fall on the Niagara Thruway filed a $45 million suit Wednesday against three companies, a truck driver and the driver of a stalled car that allegedly sparked the crash.

Richard P. Edsell, 39, is suing over the death of his wife, Mary Clare Edsell, 38, a Buffalo nursing school instructor, who was crushed by steel coils that came off the truck when it swerved to avoid hitting the stalled car Oct. 5 near the Church Street exit.

The suit charges that the coils were negligently mounted on the double flatbed trailer and held down by defective binder chains.

It seeks $30 million for the wrongful death of Ms. Edsell, the mother of a baby girl born April 21 and an instructor at Buffalo's Millard Fillmore Hospital Nursing School, and $15 million for the "conscious pain and suffering she endured" before she died.

It is the first lawsuit stemming from the fatal accident, which killed two other women and a man.

The suit, filed in State Supreme Court by attorneys Frank R. Bayger and Herschel Gelber, names the truck driver, Philip J. Barker of Grand Island, and the driver of the stalled car, Michael A. Melendez of West Avenue.

It also names Barker's employer, Ken Staub Jr. Trucking Inc. of Grand Island; Worthington Steel of Michigan Inc., which manufactured the steel coils; and Columbus McKinnon Corp. of Amherst, which designed the chains that held the coils to the truck.

Mrs. Edsell was on her way to work in the southbound lane at 7:10 a.m. when five 20,000-pound coils flew off the second flatbed on Barker's truck, crushing her car.

Investigations by the Erie County district attorney's office, the State Police and state Department of Transportation determined that the accident occurred when Barker swerved to avoid hitting the stalled car that ran out of gas in the northbound lanes.

Barker and his employer were charged with vehicular and traffic violations but no criminal offenses. They face proceedings Wednesday before City Judge Thomas P. Amodeo.

Gelber said Barker and the other defendants will all be served with copies of the lawsuit this weekend. Attorneys for the defendants couldn't be reached to comment.

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