ROCKPORT — The family of a teenager who died in a high-speed police chase has filed a notice of intent to sue for $5 million against the town, the police department and the officer involved in the chase.

The notice was filed Friday by Danielle Benner of Rockland, representing the estate of Kara Brewer, who died Dec. 5 along with the driver of the car involved in the chase, Caleb Byras, 17, of Litchfield.

The claim contends that Rockport police Officer Craig Cooley’s decision to engage in a high-speed chase through three towns was negligent, violated police policy and caused the death of Brewer. Benner is represented by Lewiston attorney Benjamin Gideon.

Brewer, 16, and Byras were killed when the Subaru station wagon Byras was driving hit a tree on Wotton’s Mill Road in Union at a reported speed of 110 mph.

The family of a third passenger in the car, 16-year-old Jeri Vitale, also filed a notice to sue this week.

The monetary damages Vitale’s family is seeking are unknown, but they are expected to cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and emotional anguish. Medical bills to date total $38,781, the notice says. Vitale also suffered permanent personal and psychological injuries resulting from the loss of her friend Kara Brewer.

Attorney James Clifford of Lewiston, who is representing Vitale, said in the notice that it was unreasonable for Cooley to engage in the chase, and that the pursuit violated a number of police practices. Police Chief Mark Kelley is also listed as a defendant, because he is responsible for training, supervising and enforcing department policies, the notice says.

The town is represented by attorney Edward Benjamin Jr. of Drummond Woodsum in Portland. He was out of the office and unable to comment on the filings Friday.

The investigative report compiled by Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Spear said speed was the major factor in the crash, and that if Byras had not been driving at a high and reckless speed, the crash would not have happened. There was no alcohol in Byras’ system and medications found in his system were prescribed to him, according to a medical examiner’s report.


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