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SOUTHINGTON — The town has settled a lawsuit over a fatal drunk driving crash but hasn’t released details of the settlement approved by the Town Council.
The lawsuit against Southington police officer Matthew Vose has been in court for years following the crash in 2015.
On the advice of attorneys working for the town’s insurance company, the council voted unanimously in favor of the settlement on April 26. Details of the settlement weren’t discussed during the council vote.
Town Manager Mark Sciota and Town Attorney Jeremy Taylor said this week that they didn’t have a copy of the settlement and referred questions to attorney Dennis Durao of Karsten & Tallberg LLC. The firm is representing the town, police chief Jack Daly and Vose, who were all named in the lawsuit.
Durao didn’t return calls and emails this week requesting a copy of the settlement.
The Record-Journal submitted a request for the settlement from the town under the state Freedom of Information Act.
Kayla Torres was headed home to Meriden, from Bristol, in December 2015 after picking up her children Veronica Martinez, 7, and Yvette Martinez, 4, and her cousin. Her vehicle was struck by a minivan driven by Michael Luponio, injuring her and a passenger, Miguel Melendez. Both children died in the crash.
Luponio, whose blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He’d sped past Southington police officer Matthew Vose about 10 minutes before the fatal accident.
According to the lawsuit, Vose should have pulled over Luponio but didn’t.
Vose told investigators that a van drove by him at a “noticeably faster” speed. He turned his cruiser lights on, but did not make them flash or strobe. Vose opted not to pursue the vehicle, however, “as the speed violation was minor and he did not want to pursue it outside of his jurisdiction,” Luponio’s arrest warrant said.
Vose was then flagged down by a man who told Bristol investigators he was getting off Interstate 84 at Exit 31 when his vehicle was nearly struck by Luponio’s minivan.
Luponio yelled an expletive at the man and threw a glass bottle at his vehicle, the warrant said. The man said Luponio was driving “at a high rate of speed” on West Street in Southington and that he stopped to talk to Vose after Luponio “blew by” the officer.
In a 2015 internal affairs investigation, police Lt. Stephen Elliott outlined the events leading up to the crash. Elliott said Vose didn’t attempt to stop the Luponio but did see him head toward Bristol.
“I would have liked to see Ofc. Vose contact Southington police dispatch and provide them with information on the speeding vehicle entering Bristol so that SPD dispatch could notify Bristol Police of the vehicle and its operation, but I do not believe that would have prevented the collision in Bristol,” Elliott wrote.
The report did not recommend discipline for Vose. He remains a patrol officer with the department.