RICHARD ESCH HOLDS TO MEMENTOS – A PHOTOGRAPH OF HIS BEST FRIEND, BRANDON MAJEWSKI, AND THE TWISTED BROKEN BACK TIRE OF THE BICYCLE HE RODE WHEN HE WAS STRUCK BY SHARLENE SIMON. ESCH WAS LEFT A SHATTERED PELVIS AND PERMANENT INJURIES.
INNISFIL, Ontario, Canada (north of Toronto) - The last thing Richard Esch saw on his best friend’s face before he was struck and killed by an SUV while they rode their bicycles, was a smile.
He doesn’t remember being thrown into the air and landing in a ditch, his pelvis shattered, his bicycle a spray of debris across the field. He didn’t see his friend, Brandon Majewski, hit with such force that he dented the SUV bumper, cracked the windshield, then the roof, before he landed on the road to die while holding a caring stranger’s hand.
But he can’t forget the fact that the woman who struck them is suing the boys and their families for her own emotional trauma.
“The pain doesn’t go away,” said Esch’s father, Terry Esch. “The damage this woman caused in a split-second has affected so many lives.”
Richard was just 16 when he and his two buddies hopped on their bicycles and headed along a country road to the plaza for hot dogs at around 1:30 a.m. Oct. 28, 2012.
They were struck by the SUV as they rode three abreast on Innisfil Beach Rd.
Esch, who also goes by McLean, was seriously injured while Majewski, 17, was killed. His other pal, Jake Roberts, 16, was knocked off his bike but not seriously injured. No alcohol or drugs were in the boys’ systems at the time of the accident, toxicology reports show.
The physical and emotional pain will never go away, Esch said recently, but the legal wrangling is like a kick in the gut when he was already down.
The SUV driver, Sharlene Simon, 42, who lived in Innisfil at the time, hired her own lawyer to sue Brandon Majewski’s estate, his parents and the County of Simcoe in the suit as well as Esch and Roberts.
Her husband, Jules Simon, a York Regional Police officer who was following his wife in his vehicle that night, is also suing for emotional trauma.
The suit is separate from an action the Estate of Brandon Majewski has taken against Sharlene Simon.
A police report states the couple was heading to their nearby Innisfil home after having a drink at a bar.
Sharlene Simon told police she was driving 90 km/h in an 80 km/h zone and didn’t see the boys.
In a statement of claim filed with the court last April, Simon is claiming $1.35 million in damages due to her psychological suffering, including depression, anxiety, irritability and post-traumatic stress.
“They did not apply their brakes properly,” the claim states. “They were incompetent bicyclists.”
Are you serious? It was their fault? Good luck with proving that in court.
None of the allegations in the suit have been proven in court. Gee, I wonder why not?
Simon’s lawyer, Michael Ellis, said the money is necessary to help her with the damages she suffered, including the loss of income and therapy for her emotional trauma.
But the Eschs aren’t impressed.
“If this woman was a real person, with a real heart, she would not have done this to us … we have nothing,” Terry Esch said recently with his son by his side at their Innisfil home.
Both parents have lost income while off work to help Richard with his rehabilitation, Terry said.
And Richard, formerly an avid hockey player and snowboarder, is still in pain and in therapy and will almost certainly never be the same, he said.
The soft-spoken Richard also finds the memories too painful to talk much about the incident.
“He was my best friend,” Richard said as he holds Majewski’s photograph.
“These were good kids, they’re not like other kids,” said Terry. “They weren’t out at a party drinking and smoking dope, they were out on their bicycles.”
He said he was informed that Simon reported to police that she thought she had struck a deer.
“Well, I’ve never seen a deer riding a bicycle with reflectors and a bright yellow jacket on,” Terry said. “There is no reason she didn’t see them – you can see a mouse run across that straight stretch of road at night ... I would like to know why she wasn’t charged and why she and her husband were allowed to leave the scene.”
The woman who held the dying boy’s hand that night has the same question.
As Richard lay in the ditch, crying out in agony, a couple stopped when they saw the glint of red bicycle reflectors. A man ran to him while his wife ran to the dying boy sprawled in the middle of the road in the moonlight in a yellow jacket.
“It’s not a memory I will ever forget,” said Melanie Lachance, 36, a school teacher who held Majewski’s hand as he died. “It hits you even harder later on.”
She said the driver’s frantic husband rushed up and asked their location so he could call police. Then he went back to his wife’s vehicle and didn’t return. She said when police came the Simons were allowed to leave.
“That didn’t sit right with me,” said Lachance, noting the other witnesses at the scene were required to stay until 5:30 a.m.
“It’s soul sucking,” says the father of the dead child, Derek Majewski, of the lawsuit. “We’re still in pain. We’re still confused. We’re still waiting.”
The story has touched the hearts of people across the world.
This month, an online news source in the United States, called Streetsblog USA, awarded Charlene Simon the 2014 “Hell on Wheels” award. ?
The lawyer for the Majewski family, Brian Cameron, said he is shocked that the woman who struck and killed Brandon Majewski is pursuing her lawsuit against the teen’s estate.
“In my entire career I’ve never heard of anyone ever suing a dead child that they killed,” said Cameron. “It’s horrible.”
Cameron said he launched what he calls a “routine” suit for damages against Sharlene Simon which would have covered funeral costs, loss of work pay for the family, and trauma and emotional counselling.
“It’s all about getting compensation for the death of their son,” said Cameron. “This would have all been covered by their insurance.”
But he said Simon went beyond the insurance companies and hired her own lawyer to launch a suit separate from what the insurance companies would pay out.
“This is not a counter suit – it has nothing to do with the insurance,” said Cameron.
Simon’s lawyer, Michael Ellis, admits Simon was not physically injured in the crash. The $1.35 million she is claiming includes her costs for loss of work and medical costs for therapy for her emotional trauma. “She would have lost everything,” Ellis said. “She would have been destitute … homeless.” Oh, c'mon! Her husband is a policeman, how destitute can she get?
But Cameron said the Simons each had one million-dollar insurance coverage which would have been more than enough to cover any claims for the Majewskis or the other boy who was seriously hurt. Plus her insurance company would have additional coverage if she needed emotional counselling.
“In Canada we don’t take people’s homes and personal assets — we don’t take blood from a stone — that doesn’t happen,” he insisted. “That’s why we have insurance. You negotiate and you settle within the insurance policy.”
The matter has become even more complicated since the Simons are also suing the other two boys — Richard Esch, 17, and 16-year-old Jake Roberts, Cameron said.
“This is a routine matter that would have been settled long ago,” he said. “But now, with her lawsuit, a relatively uncomplicated insurance process has become much more complicated … this is just prolonging the family’s pain.”
Because of scheduling difficulties, a pre-trial proceeding is not expected until August.
A Facebook sight called “Stand by Sharlene Simon” states: “It appears that the insurance adjusters are getting close to a settlement in the case. One of the chief stumbling blocks is the amount of long term care for the PTSD that Sharlene has incurred as a proximate result of the bicyclist’s negligence.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court.