Settlement proves Palmer Township crash victim was not at fault in vehicular motorcycle accident
It has been over three years since Terry Wegfahrt died from injuries he suffered in a vehicular motorcycle accident in the Palmer Park Mall shopping complex.
Terry Lee Wegfahrt was a graduate of Nazareth High School. 24-year-old Wegfahrt had earned a 2007 Diploma in Motorcycle Technology from York Technical Institute. He enjoyed motorcycles, martial arts and music.
Wegfahrt was struck in the vehicular motorcycle accident around 12:45 p.m. by a 2004 Nissan Quest, driven by Gabriela Strunk. Strunk was attempting to turn into the mall during the fatal vehicular motorcycle accident. She was a Forks Township resident and had never been charged in the vehicular motorcycle accident that killed Wegfahrt. According to reports, there was “no evidence to indicate that Strunk made any unlawful actions to contribute to the accident.”
In Gabriella Strunk’s written report to police that followed the vehicular motorcycle accident, she said before making her turn, she saw Wegfahrt’s motorcycle in the back of the line of traffic “weaving by the cars to be in the front.”
“I turned, cars were still stopped,” Strunk’s written statement reads.”Suddenly I saw the man on the bike, within a second he was on top of me. He put on the brakes, the bike tilted, his legs flew.”
As soon as traffic was permitted to go, Wegfahrt accelerated to get past a silver vehicle that had been in front of him, according to the report.
“It is believed that Strunk was already into the left turn when Wegfahrt quickly passed said silver-colored vehicle and collided into Strunk’s vehicle,” the report states.
Wegfahrt’s father, Eric, said he was told officials believed his son had the right of way at the intersection at the time of the accident, but that they were still gathering testimony from other witnesses.
One of the witnesses described Wegfahrt as “changing lanes and driving recklessly,” according to the report, while another said the minivan could not possibly have avoided striking the motorcycle.
Another witness said the accident sounded like “a wrecking ball crashing into a steel beam.”
The final report concluded that 24-year-old Terry Wegfahrt of Stockertown was “driving in excess of the 35-mile-per-hour speed limit posted on Park Avenue.”
The family of Terry Wegfahrt immediately disagreed with the reports. They stated that there was no evidence to substantiate that Wegfahrt was speeding. Then “an inquiry Palmer Township police made with Pennsylvania State Police bolstered the argument that speeding wasn’t a factor.”
Wegfahrt’s attorney stated “The state police responded and established there was no physical representation in this case that there was any speeding. Eyewitnesses couldn’t give a speed in their deposition.”
Now Terry Wegfahrt’s family wants vindication for their son’s vehicular motorcycle accident. After public reports that Wegfahrt was speeding during the vehicular motorcycle accident, Wegfahrt’s family wants the truth to come out in a courtroom by a jury. They insist he did nothing wrong.
Palmer Township police Lt. Wayne Smith said the police department acknowledges that there was “no evidence to support any type of speeding” in Terry Wegfahr’s vehicular motorcycle accident but also stands by its findings that Strunk did absolutely nothing to warrant criminal charges.
“We’re vehemently denying the other party was at fault based on the totality of circumstances,” Smith said, adding that Strunk’s action “at worst” could have potentially warranted a summary traffic citation for the left turn. “We even had issues with that. … Based on our investigation, we didn’t even feel that it rose to that level.”
Wegfahrt’s family almost took their civil case to trial, but in the end they went with a settlement in early June.
It was not an easy decision for Eric Wegfahrt to decide whether or not to accept the settlement offer. Ultimately, Terry Wegfahrt’s parents decided to accept the offer for the sake of Terry’s two younger brothers. They knew that the defense in a civil trial would attempt to show their older brother in a negative light, and they believed this would be distressing to the two.
Terry Wegfahrt’s parents believe that the settlement does provide closure because it helps to clear his name. Terry Wegfahrt was not driving recklessly when died. Eric Wegfahrt still mourns the loss of his son, despite the settlement outcome.
“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” he said. “We struggle with it every day. The grace we have from this is with God. Terry’s a Christian. We know he’s in a better place.”