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Members of law enforcement investigate a fatal car accident on Riverside Road in April 14 of 2017. Families of the victims that died are suing the city for wrongful deaths.

The City of St. Joseph is being sued for causing a fatal accident on Riverside Road four years ago.

On April 14, 2017, Skylar Lucas-Cox and five other passengers were speeding north on Riverside Road. As they approached the Word of Life Church, the right wheels of the white Toyota Tundra — which was stolen the night before — went off the street.

Lucas-Cox quickly overcorrected and veered into the southbound lane where he was struck by an oncoming Dodge Ram truck. All four passengers in the back of the Toyota — Dayton Ray Crockett, Dasean Darden, Karlo Ginn Jr. and Javion Thompson — died either at the scene or shortly after at Mosaic Life Care.

The front passenger, Xavier Dydell, suffered a traumatic brain injury. Lucas-Cox, who tried to flee the scene, only sustained minor injuries. He was later sentenced to 22 years in prison for two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of second-degree assault.

In July 2017, Dydell petitioned to recover damages against the city. The families of the other victims later filed petitions for damages in wrongful deaths. In court documents obtained by News-Press NOW, they state that Riverside Road isn’t properly maintained by the city.

The petition for wrongful death states that the road was “in a dangerous and defective condition” and consisted of an “unreasonable and treacherous roadway drop-off on the east edge.” According to a police report of the accident, the drop-off was nine inches. The Missouri Engineering Policy Guide recommends limiting edge drops to no more than two inches, which is industry standard.

The petition also mentions the lack of an edge line and proper signage. But the city said the road conditions aren’t what caused the accident. It was the driver.

While driving the truck on the day of the accident, Lucas-Cox was under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and benzodiazepines, according to blood and urine samples taken by the police department following the crash.

The city argues the street conditions didn’t cause Lucas-Cox to leave the roadway, instead it was his criminal actions that were “intervening and superseding causes” of the accident.

The Buchanan County Court agreed with the city on February 22, 2019. The plaintiffs appealed, and the case went to the Missouri Court of Appeal Western District, which reversed the circuit court’s judgement.

While the city said the road conditions didn’t contribute to the accident, the appellate court disagreed. The court also determined that Lucas-Cox’s actions aren’t necessarily the main reason the crash occurred.

“There are issues of material of fact as to whether the lack of an edge line combined with the nine-inch drop off caused or contributed to the collision,” said Judge Gary D. Witt in his opinion.

The wrongful death lawsuits were recently refiled in Buchanan County and another trial is scheduled for August 16.

Quinn Ritzdorf can be reached at quinn.ritzdorf@newspressnow.com

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