Two families whose children were injured when a van owned by the town of Kittery crashed on Interstate 95 in New Hampshire this summer have filed notices of claim against the town.

Both are seeking financial damages for medical bills. In one claim the amount is $100,000.

“I think it’s probably a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Richard Clark, a New Hampshire attorney who is representing one family. “I feel for what the child and the mother has to go through. The damage is done, unfortunately.”

Eleven summer campers were on the way to Candia Springs Adventure Park on Aug. 10 when their van ran into a large tree next to the highway in Greenland, New Hampshire. Some children, who ranged in age from 7 to 9, were injured. One was transported from Exeter Hospital to Boston Children’s Hospital before being released.

Officials said the driver, 21-year-old John E. Guy, suffered a medical emergency before the wreck. Although police did not elaborate, Guy disclosed in a prior unrelated court case that he suffers from epilepsy and had experienced grand mal seizures in the past. Guy also had a lengthy history of driving infractions and a minor criminal record, and an internal review showed the town failed to check his driving record before he was hired.

Attorney Edward Benjamin, who is representing the town, provided the Portland Press Herald with the two notices of claim filed so far. Both request more information about the town’s insurance policy. In an email, Benjamin said a notice of claim is intended to preserve a person’s right to sue a municipality or its employees, but it doesn’t mean a lawsuit will follow. He said he plans to send the liability coverage document to the attorneys Wednesday.


The first notice of claim, dated Aug. 15, was filed on behalf of Lev Petrushov and his mother, Ilia Petrushov. New Hampshire attorney Justin Caramagno wrote that Lev was on the bus when it crashed. The boy was transported to Exeter Hospital in an ambulance and treated for a head injury and a sprained ankle. The claim is for $100,000 to cover medical bills.

“It was very traumatic,” Caramagno said in a phone interview Tuesday. “When they close a major interstate for this accident, you can only imagine what’s going through your mind when you learn your child is on the bus.”

The lawyer said the boy and his mother live in Russia, and they were visiting family in Kittery at the time of the crash. Caramagno said his office has received some information from the town’s insurance company since sending the notice. While he declined to comment in depth about the case, he said the town’s hiring practices will be part of his investigation.

“Apparently this kid driving the bus was not exactly the prime candidate as somebody to be carting around children,” Caramagno said.

The second notice, dated Aug. 19, came soon after the first. Clark is representing Aviryel Smart, who was on the bus, and her mother, Melissa Smart. The notice does not include any information about the girl’s injuries, and Clark declined to elaborate other than to say her medical treatment is ongoing.

“The emotion is still very strong,” he said.


Clark said it is too early to speculate what the amount of the claim will be, but he said he has already spoken with the town’s attorney about insurance coverage. He said many people in the community were affected by the crash, and it made him think about his own son.

“Parents’ lives revolve around their kids,” Clark said. “I think that’s why the community was shocked about what happened. I can just tell you I feel for my client, her daughter and all the parents and children who were on that bus.”

Guy was a counselor at a summer camp known as the SAFE Summer program, which is run through the Kittery Community Center.

He had been convicted twice in Maine through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles administrative process of driving to endanger, has two speeding tickets on his record and was cited three times for driving with a suspended license since he was issued one in 2013.

Guy’s two criminal convictions in Maine are for violating the conditions of his release, the first in March 2018 and the second in May 2018. He was fined $200 each time, according to the State Bureau of Identification. There was no information available about what criminal charge originally led to Guy being placed on probation.

Both the driving record and the criminal record came up in routine checks conducted by the Press Herald after the crash. The town said its own criminal background check was conducted using a national proprietary database, which did not return any conviction information. The town also conducted a local criminal records check, but it was confined to the county in which Guy resided and did not capture the totality of his criminal record. But it never checked his driving record, apparently a miscommunication between the town’s human resources staff and the Kittery Community Center staff.


It was unclear whether the driving infractions and Guy’s minor criminal record would have changed the decision to hire him.

The town has since promised to improve its background check procedures. The New Hampshire State Police, which responded to the scene and is leading the investigation, reported that Guy’s license was suspended immediately after the crash. Kittery Town Manager Kendra Amaral said previously that Guy was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. A person who answered the phone Tuesday at Kittery Town Hall said Amaral would not be making any comment on the notices of claim and directed questions to Benjamin.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

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