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Cops and Courts

Suit filed against motorcycle operator, sheriff's office in fatal crash

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This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Sara Bevelacqua’s name.

ELYRIA — The family of a woman killed in a motorcycle crash in August 2016 filed a lawsuit regarding her death Friday in county Common Pleas Court.

The family of Sara Bevelacqua, 21, of Cleveland, named as defendants Justin Tancak, the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office and multiple deputies, according to court documents.

The Ohio Highway Patrol reported at the time of the crash that Tancak was heading north on state Route 57 about 2:35 a.m. Aug. 20 when his Kawasaki motorcycle went off the left side of the road near state Route 10. Bevelacqua was thrown from the bike and died at the scene, while Tancak received only minor injuries in the crash, troopers reported.

Last week, Tancak pleaded guilty to charges of failure to comply, obstructing official business, driving under the influence and willful or wanton disregard of safety on a highway, according to court documents. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 21.

The lawsuit contends Tancak was “negligent and/or willful and/or wanton and/or reckless in the operation of his motorcycle,” and, as a result, Bevelaqua was killed.

The lawsuit also alleges that Tancak was operating the motorcycle, with Bevelacqua as a passenger, westbound on state Route 82 in Columbia Township when a Lorain County Sheriff’s deputy allegedly clocked the motorcycle traveling 70 mph in a 45 mph zone. The deputy started pursuing Tancak and a high-speed chase ensued, ultimately leading to the crash on Route 57, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends that the deputies involved in the high-speed chase “were under a duty to refrain from engaging in act and/or omissions so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury or death results.” The suit also says the deputies breached their duty by “acting willfully, wantonly and in reckless disregard.”

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.


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