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Families of 3 Gretna teens who died in 2019 crash, suing Sarpy County, Ford and guardrail manufacturer

Posted at 6:30 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 19:30:50-04

PAPILLION, Neb. (KMTV) — It’s been two years since four Gretna teen girls were killed in a car crash in rural Sarpy County.

Just about a week ago, the parents of three of the girls, Addisyn Pfeifer, Abigail Barth and Alexandria Minardi, filed a lawsuit against Sarpy County, Ford and the manufacturer of the guardrail they hit, Safety Guard Inc.

The parents of three of the girls who were killed say in the lawsuit that the road, guardrails and the vehicle were all deficient and caused the girls' death.

The court filings also provide details previously unknown to the public.

New details from the night they died have recently emerged in a 32-page court filing.

We already knew the girls were traveling eastbound in a Ford Fusion when they lost control. The fusion hit a guardrail and fell into a ravine near 180th and Platteview Road.

Then, it caught fire.

Two of the deceased girls were ejected and two remained in the car.

The lawsuit says the vehicle began to yaw, or twist, before it hit the guardrail and went into the ditch.

It says one of the girls, inside the car, managed to dial 911 and remained on the phone for a minute and a half.

About 15 minutes later, the document says a passerby could hear screaming from two girls. The Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office said in their original press release after the crash that they arrived a minute later.

Fire trucks arrived about 14 minutes after that, according to the lawsuit.

Autopsies showed the girls died from smoke and fire injuries, meaning they were alive for some time.

Authorities say four of the five girls were drinking and the Fusion was traveling around 90 miles per hour.

The lawsuit says there were “fundamental flaws” in that calculation. It says the Fusion was “traveling nowhere near the speed as what the sheriff’s office has allegedly reported.”

The lawsuit also points to studies paid for by the county in 2014 and 2016, saying that part of Platteview Road should have had no more than a 40 mile per hour speed limit and that it was recommended to widen, re-grade and add rumble strips to the area.

The short-term improvements have yet to be made.

This wasn’t the first fatal accident to happen in the intersection. The lawsuit mentions a teenager dying on the other side of Platteview in 2006.

A cross memorializing the teen is still at the site.

It also claims the guardrails weren’t long enough, not positioned correctly, didn't have the right absorbent material and not installed correctly.

While also saying the Ford Fusion was defective, saying the traction and stability system failed to work properly, that the gas tank design causes fires and the airbags didn’t function properly.

The parents of Minardi, Pfeifer and Barth are seeking money for wrongful death, survival claims for the pain and suffering for the girls when they were alive and emotional distress for the parents' trauma afterward.

State law caps their possible damages from Sarpy County at $5 million and they’re challenging the constitutionality of that law.

Bonnie Moore, Chief Deputy County Attorney for Sarpy County said over the phone she couldn’t comment and the next step will be a formal reply to the accusations from the county.

The family of Kloe Odermatt, who also died in the crash, did not join the lawsuit. Nor did the family of Roan Brandon, the lone survivor of the crash.

On the second anniversary of the death of the four girls, less than a month after they were supposed to graduate from Gretna High School, classmate Faith Norwig sits and thinks about her friends.

“It’s hard because they’re supposed to be at all those things and they aren’t,” said Norwig.

A lawsuit is far from her mind. She’s just thinking about the four friends that she’ll never get back. She wants to keep them in people’s memory.

“Their crazy personalities — Alex’s sassy personality. I want everyone to remember Chloe’s smile. I want everyone to remember Addisyn’s love for soccer and her love for everyone around her. And I want everyone to remember Abby's craziness and that she didn’t care about anything she just wanted to live life her way,” said Norwig.

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