A Marion County woman is suing the City of Fairmont claiming a policeman was driving more than twice the speed limit when he crashed his marked pickup into her husband’s SUV, killing him.
Driven by Fairmont Police Officer Jakob Streyle, the police truck was traveling at least 73 mph when it smashed into Steven Santini’s Subaru Forester, Santini’s wife, Emily Calhoun Santini, alleges in a lawsuit.
Steven Santini was attempting to make a left turn onto Country Club Road in Fairmont on July 10, 2019, when the 2016 Dodge Ram pickup T-boned his driver’s side door, flipping the vehicle on its side before it crashed into a telephone pole and gas pipeline, according to the complaint.
Santini was pronounced dead at the scene, the complaint says. He was 72.
The speed limit on Country Club Road is 35 mph, according to the complaint. No emergency lights were flashing on the pickup nor was there an active emergency call at the time of the crash at 1:40 p.m., according to the suit.
A post the same day on the Fairmont Police Department’s Facebook page said the pickup was not speeding and “an independent witness stated the civilian vehicle ran a stop sign while traveling on Bison Street in an apparent attempt to turn ... onto Country Club Road,” according to Tony O’Dell, a Charleston attorney who is representing the Santini family.
Santini’s lawsuit denies that account, saying the post failed to mention two eyewitnesses who said they were sitting directly behind Santini waiting to turn onto Country Club Road and saw him stop before entering the intersection.
An independent accident reconstructionist based in St. Albans examined the police truck’s “black box” after the crash and calculated that the officer was driving at least 73 mph when the pickup hit Santini’s vehicle, according to the complaint.
“The family was led to believe ... that the Fairmont police officer was driving the speed limit,” O’Dell said. “That is very troubling, that the police department allowed this family to go for months not knowing what actually happened to their husband and dad.”
Fairmont police declined to comment.
The complaint says Fairmont officers told the two eyewitnesses who sat behind Santini to leave, and police did not take the witnesses’ statements.
The lawsuit names the City of Fairmont, Streyle and Fairmont Police Officer Christopher Guinup, who was a passenger in the police truck. Both officers still are employed by the police department, according to the complaint.