REDWOOD CITY - A wrongful death lawsuit is being brought on behalf of 7-year-old twin girls whose parents were killed in a crash caused by street racing.
A family of four -- parents and the twins -- were driving home from the girls' grandmother's house shortly before Christmas last year when they were struck by a car moving 100 mph, killing both parents, Gregory Ammen and Grace Spiridon, instantly. They were less than 10 minutes away from their San Carlos home at the time of the crash.
The twins, Madison and Olivia Ammen, survived and suffered minor injuries.
According to the complaint filed in the lawsuit, two residents of San Mateo County, Cesar Salto Morales and Kyle Harrison, were allegedly racing each other down El Camino Real in Redwood City, a busy street with a speed limit of 35 mph, leading to the crash.
When they pulled up to the same traffic light, Morales challenged Harrison to a race as the two revved their engines back and forth, according to Harrison's account to law enforcement, the complaint states. Passengers in Morales' car, identified in the complaint as E.S. and J.M., shouted at Harrison to provoke him to race while a passenger in Harrison's car yelled at Morales to "blow the light."
As the light turned green, the two cars accelerated at a speed of approximately 75 to 80 mph, according to witness accounts. Morales struck the front passenger side of the Ammens' car as they approached the same intersection, launching their car over 100 feet.
The lawsuit is being brought by Michael Ammen, the twins' uncle, against Morales, Harrison, minor passengers E.S. and J.M. as well as Morales' parents.
Morales' parents, the lawsuit alleged, were aware of their son's "proclivity for reckless driving." Since the parents allegedly allowed him to drive on the night of the crash despite this knowledge, Michael Ammen is suing them for negligent entrustment.
Michael Ammen is seeking compensatory and general damages against the defendants as well as any damages allowable under the wrongful death statute and relief for past and future medical, incidental, household and service expenses on behalf of the twins. He is also pursuing relief for attorney's fees if the defendants are convicted of a felony. Their criminal case is still pending in San Mateo County Superior Court.
The process of going through the lawsuit has been "painful as anything else dealing with this tragedy," Michael Ammen said.
"It's something we have to relive everyday whether we want to or not," he said. "There are days where we're dealing with the lawsuit and reliving it and there are days where we are trying to get on with our lives and having to relive it."
Above all, Michael Ammen said he hopes that this lawsuit can help prevent more crashes from reckless driving from occurring.
This case sheds light on the growing problem of street racing in California, said Niall McCarthy, an attorney representing Madison and Olivia Ammen.
"This case arises from a brutal indifference to human life," McCarthy said in a press release. "The Bay Area has an epidemic of people who gamble with the lives of others by street racing."
According to a 2022 press release from the California Highway Patrol, they saw an increase in the number of incidents that occurred due to unsafe driving behaviors, including street racing. In the period between January 2021 and September 2022, the CHP issued over 40,000 citations to motorists exceeding 100 mph.
Last month, the CHP launched a campaign called "Thrills that Kill," which is part of an effort to end illegal street racing and sideshows. Over the course of five years, the CHP reported, there were 264 crashes -- including 30 fatal and 124 resulting in injuries -- linked with street racing and sideshows.
"If we can prevent another accident like this and get parents to speak to their teenage drivers about the dangers of getting behind the wheel, that's really our goal," Michael Ammen said.
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