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Wisconsin teenager sentenced in fatal car accident

Wisconsin readers will likely remember a tragic car accident that occurred in March 2012 and ended the lives of two teenagers. The fatal car accident touched the hearts of many within the Manitowoc community, and led to criminal charges against the teenage driver. The criminal case recently ended, and the young man responsible for this terrible loss of life has been sentenced in the matter. For the families of those killed in the crash, the outcome may serve as an important step on their journey toward closure and healing.

The crash took place when the young man lost control of his vehicle, running into a ditch and smashing into a tree. The two teens killed in the crash were passengers in his vehicle. Police estimate that the driver was travelling between 81 and 85 miles per hour when the accident occurred; there were skid marks measuring over 600 feet leading to the crash site. The hearing included information on additional charges against the driver that were dismissed. These included driving a stolen vehicle, stealing prescription pills, failing to appear in court and possession of child pornography.

During the recent sentencing hearing, family members of the deceased teens spoke about the depth of their loss. They told the court how their homes have lost the love and light of a child, and the fact that there will be no birthdays, gradations of holidays spent with their lost family members. Some expressed anger, others seemed consoled by the end of the trial and look ahead to the process of healing from the loss.

The teenage driver was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the fatal car accident; he will also be required to undergo 10 years of extended supervision once released. Should the family members of the teens who died in the crash decide to move forward with civil suits against him, he could very well find himself in another Wisconsin courtroom in the near future. A successful civil lawsuit could help the families recover damages, including funeral expenses, that resulted from the apparent negligent actions of this young man. In any related civil proceeding, proof of his criminal conviction may be offered as evidence of civil liability for negligence.

Source: GreenBayPressGazette.com, "Zachary Gauthier sentenced to 4 years in crash that killed 2," Suzanne Weiss, Jan. 3, 2013

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