MILWAUKEE - The emotional civil trial started Wednesday for a Random Lake concrete company blamed for the deadly O’Donnell Park parking garage panel collapse in 2010. Surviving victims and Milwaukee County are asking for millions in damages.
Everyone in the courtroom agrees that what happened on the first day of Summerfest is a tragedy. They disagree on who, if anyone, should be blamed.
“A 13 and a half ton, 34-foot architectural panel, attached to a building above an entrance and exit should not fall off,” said Tim Andringa, attorney for the Wosinski family.
A giant, decorative concrete panel fell from the O’Donnell Park parking garage. It killed 15-year-old Jared Kellner. Kellner’s mom is one of those suing for millions.
Kellner was accompanying the Wosinski family to Summerfest. Kellner was close friend of teenager Eric Wosinski.
Attorneys representing the surviving victims’ ran a tape measure the length of the courtroom to demonstrate the size and weight of the panel.
“34 feet long. My height. Two elephants or six pickup trucks,” said Allen Foeckler, attorney for the Kellner family.
The two families and Milwaukee County contend Advance Cast Stone of Random Lake is to blame. Current president Matt Garni’s late father was the president of the company when the panels were installed two decades ago. His attorneys will argue 20 years of wear and tear, overlooked maintenance and weather could be reasons the panel fell.
“Between the banging, the freezing and the thawing, something cracked,” said Matt McClean, attorney for Advance Cast Stone.
Steve Wosinski witnessed the collapse. Wosinski’s son broke his leg and his wife suffered injuries so severe that doctors amputated her leg. He knew Kellner for many years.
“He was crushed. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was horrible,” Wosinski told the jury. “Nightmares. Every time I close my eyes. That poor boy. He was a beautiful, beautiful boy.”
The trial is expected to last several weeks. Jurors are likely to hear from engineers, county employees, inspectors, construction workers, experts and medical professionals who treated the survivors.
The jury is expected to take a bus to a county facility near the airport to view the actual panel that fell.