PELLA - The family of a woman killed in a freak crash into the Walmart claims the store's design contributed to their daughter's death.
Lindsey Rietveld died after the truck hit her. She was pinned against the truck and a freezer. Her family has filed the lawsuit. Two others---Carrie Zugg and Ruth DeJong-- also died.
The key word from the legal standpoint in all of this is negligence. In a 16 page petition, the attorneys show there were substandard safety measures for the store.
They also say the driver of the truck, Dennis Mockenhaupt--- despite his claims of a medical episode---is still partially at fault for the three deaths.
"This isn't something I can't handle alone. None of us can," said Don French.
French was off duty from his job at Walmart, when he witnessed that horrific crash six months ago.
His words, like those of other witnesses, carry more weight with the latest lawsuit.
"About 50 feet east of the main door, and you hear this gunning of an engine. It got really loud, really fast," said Ryan Ferrell, who witnessed the crash on Dec. 1.
This week, the attorneys for the family of one of the women killed in the crash says Dennis Mockenhaupt told technical investigators he choked on his coffee and lost consciousness as he drove through the store entrance.
Seven charges..are now pending against Walmart, Mockenhaupt and the store's architect Christopher Rhea.
"Before I knew it, he went right over that concrete post, that they have, as to how fast he was going, I couldn't tell you," said Ferrell. But to do the damage he did, he wasn't going slow."
Attorneys say no obstructions or curves in the parking lot are part of the issue, which allowed Mockenhaupt to strike a pillar at 48 miles per hour.
Mockenhaupt's charges allege he failed on multiple fronts: controlling his vehicle, maintaining a proper lookout, operating a vehicle in a safe and prudent manner, and driving at a careful speed.
Rhea and Walmart's charges include the bollards to the store not meeting industry standards.
The attorneys allege the defendants knew the design and construction of the parking lot and the front of the store was unsafe.
"I'd say the truck probably made it 50 or 60 feet inside the door," said French.
That put the customers and employees at risk from any car that would get out of control, like Mockenhaupt's did.
And that's only the beginning of a long legal battle.
Walmart sent us this statement, regarding the case: “We continue offering our prayers to the victims’ families. The safety of our customers and associates is among our top priorities, and we have consultants and engineers who designed this parking lot in accordance with local laws and regulations. While we have not yet been served with this lawsuit, we take this matter seriously and will respond appropriately with the court.”
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