Firefighters, police officer struck by drunk driver in October file civil lawsuit
The three firefighters and one city police officer who were struck by a drunk driver in the early morning of Oct. 19 have filed a civil lawsuit against several local entities for over serving the driver.
The firefighters and officers were responding to a separate incident when they were, according to police reports, struck by a vehicle at 4:45 a.m. Oct. 19 in the Highwoods Mobile Home Park at 8th Avenue North and 38th Street North. They were responding to reports of injuries at a domestic disturbance, according to Great Falls Fire Department, Great Falls Police Department and court documents.
GFFR firefighters Jay Jarrett, Jay Kromarek and Carter Marsh and GFPD Officer Zaine O’Meara filed a civil suit in district court on April 13 against Kobe Seafood and Steakhouse, The Flamingo and the individual managers of the alcohol licenses for those establishments for negligence.
In the lawsuit, they allege that the defendant in the case, Scott Allen Jenks, has consumed alcoholic beverages during his work shift at Kobe Seafood and Steakhouse, where he worked until about 11 p.m. on Oct. 18. He then left and met a friend at The Flamingo where he was served though visibly intoxicated, according to the lawsuit.
The firefighters and officers were discussing the domestic call they’d responded to when a “very fast moving vehicle” driving by Jenks hit the firefighters from behind before they had time to react and then crashed into the trailer next to the one where the original call had arisen, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Jarrett was knocked to the ground and landed on his left elbow off to the side of the vehicle as it went through the group.
Marsh and O’Meara “were struck by the left front of the vehicle and ended up entangled with each other between the vehicle and the trailer that the vehicle became embedded in,” according to the lawsuit.
Kromarek “was struck by the right front of the vehicle and ended up unconscious on the ground to the right of the right front tire of the vehicle where it came to rest after striking the vehicle,” according to the lawsuit.
In October, County Attorney Josh Racki said Jenks had a blood alcohol level significantly over the legal limit and was taken into custody at the scene.
He was charged with three counts of negligent vehicular assault and one count of criminal endangerment, Racki said. He was held on a $100,000 bond.
Jenks’ trial on the criminal charges is set for May 11, but is unlikely to happen that day due to COVID-19 and continued negotiation, according to the Cascade County Attorney’s Office. Jenks remains in the Fort Benton jail.
Court documents in the criminal and new civil case state that Jenks had a blood alcohol content of 0.236 at the accident scene in a portable breath test. He later consented to a blood test, according to court documents.
In the lawsuit, the firefighters and officer allege that the defendants conduct “contributed as a cause of the collision and the injuries arising therefrom.”
State law sets criteria governing the liability of a person or entity that furnishes an alcoholic beverage for injury or damage arising from an event involving the person who consumed the beverage.
In October, GFPD officials said O’Meara suffered injuries to his face and shoulder and underwent emergency surgery this morning.
He’s been with GFPD for about three years, is an active member of the Montana National Guard, an Army veteran and a former detention officer with the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, according to GFPD.
On Oct. 21, GFPD posted to its Facebook page that O’Meara had been released from the hospital.
In the post, O’Meara said: “I can not explain how grateful I am for the tremendous support my family and I have received. I am especially grateful to my GFPD, Great Falls Fire Rescue, Great Falls Emergency Services first responder family, and the medical staff at Benefis Health System, who all helped me survive this incident. For me to walk away from this situation with only a broken jaw and injured shoulder is an act of God, the injured firefighters and I are very lucky to be alive. I have seen the many comments of support from community members, thank you. It’s an honor to serve and I look forward to recovering quickly so I can get back out on the streets, where I am the happiest.”
In October, GFPD Lt. Doug Otto said the Montana Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. GFPD officials at the time thanked GFFR Capt. Jay Jarrett for physically detaining Jenks when O’Meara was unable.
Both Marsh and Kromarek needed emergency surgery in October, according to GFFR officials at the time.