Teen’s family files lawsuit against Knox ambulance driver

By Dean Manning

For the Mountain Advocate

The parents of a 14-year-old Knox County boy who was struck and killed by a Knox County EMS ambulance in August have filed a lawsuit claiming negligence on the part of the ambulance service and the driver, Kevin French, led to their son’s death.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday in Knox Circuit Court, Rodney Callender and Holly Dale Johnson are seeking to recoup the medical and funeral expenses totaling $15,603.

In addition, the parents are seeking compensation for the loss of affection and companionship from their son, the loss of the 14-year-old’s future ability to earn money and punitive damages.

“We filed the case so we can begin the discovery process,” said David O. Smith, the attorney representing Callender’s parents, noting while he has a copy of the preliminary police report, an independent accident reconstructionist has completed an investigation.

However, Kentucky State Police, who have been investigating the wreck, have yet to answer three of the biggest questions, how fast was the ambulance going, were the ambulance’s lights and sirens activated when the ambulance struck Callender and two other teens and was French under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

Trooper Shane Jacobs, public affairs officer at Post 10 in Harlan, said previously that no other details of the incident would be released until the investigation was completed and the case presented to a Knox County grand jury.

When it was learned the case was not presented to the grand jury in January, Jacobs said investigators are still awaiting results of the blood tests from the state police crime lab in Frankfort.

In addition to negligence, the plaintiffs are also claiming French violated the statutory laws governing the operation of an ambulance.

The speed limit in the area is 55 mph.

Under Kentucky Law, emergency vehicles transporting a patient to medical facilities are not subject to posted speed limits provided the lights and sirens are activated.

However, even with the lights and sirens activated, the driver is not relieved of, “the duty to drive with regard for the safety of all persons and property upon the highway,” the statute states.

The wreck occurred about 10 p.m. that evening.

Callender and two other juveniles, identified through social media as Keyshawn Blevins and Trenton Brock, were riding their bikes north on U.S. 25E near Sammie’s Auction House.

The ambulance, which was also travelling north, dropped off the roadway and struck the trio as they rode their bikes in the median dividing the four-lane highway.

The collision report, obtained through an open records request to the state police lists “inattention” as a human factor in the collision and notes French failed to maneuver the ambulance to avoid the collision. The juveniles were struck with the left front bumper of the ambulance.

Callender was pronounced dead at the scene. Blevins and Brock were taken to Baptist Health Corbin for treatment of their injuries.

The ambulance was en route from Barbourville to Baptist Health Corbin with a patient.

Holly Johnson, previously described her son as a smart, funny and very loving boy who was very respectful and well mannered.

“He cared and was concerned about other people,” Johnson said.

“He was well-known by everyone in school or out in public,” she said.

“I’ll never forget his smile and his laughter,” she said.

“He was my baby.”