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Family May Sue Westport Over Fatal Car Crash Into Saugatuck River

The car is pulled from the Saugatuck River in February in Westport after a deadly crash.
The car is pulled from the Saugatuck River in February in Westport after a deadly crash. Photo Credit: Westport Police Department

WESTPORT, Conn. — The lawyer for the family of a man who drowned after his car plunged into the Saugatuck River on Feb. 25 is reserving the right to possibly file a lawsuit against the town of Westport, the Westport News reported.

Richard La Mendola, 76, died and his wife, Stephanie, was rescued after he apparently accidentally drove their 2016 BMW into the frigid river at night from the boat launch off Saxon Lane on a cold, rainy night, police said.

The lawyer said the investigation has not been completed, but if it is determined that the injuries were caused by a defective highway, bridge or sidewalk; or caused by negligence of town employees, departments or other entities, the family reserves the right to sue the town, the Westport News said.

Lamendola of Syosset, N.Y., was pulled from the river and pronounced dead at Norwalk Hospital, police said. His wife, whose screams prompted 911 calls from the Whelk Restaurant and brought first responders to the scene, was pulled from the water first and survived, police said.

The car entered the river from the State Boat Launch near the wastewater treatment plant under I-95 on the east side of the Saugatuck River, police said.

First responders saw a woman struggling in the middle of the river and heading north with the current of the tidal river.

Westport firefighters and police officers boarded a civilian boat they found on the side of the river and rescued her.

About a half-hour later, officers saw the man farther north up the river near the Bridge Street bridge, where he was pulled from the water but did not survive.

Click here to read the story in the Westport News.

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