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Wed, Oct. 16

City of Williams settles Highway 64 lawsuit
$2.3 million paid to family of Mesa man

WILLIAMS - The city of Williams' insurance company has settled with the family of James A. Innes of Mesa who died after colliding with a Williams Police vehicle May 20 on Highway 64.

Travelers Insurance settled the wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city of Williams last week for $2.3 million.

Interim City Manager Joe Duffy said the city was not consulted before Travelers settled the lawsuit.

"The insurance companies have the ability to settle these things without our input," Duffy said. "That's standard in most insurance coverage. We had no input whatsoever. The claim was submitted to the insurance company and we were just notified that it was settled."

Duffy said that because there is not a deductible on the city's insurance coverage, the settlement will not affect the city's general fund but, upon renewal next year, rates may increase. He went on to say that the city does not expect the increase to be substantial.

"Really, the bottom line is, this is why we take out this type of insurance because we have employees out doing things on a regular basis and things happen and the insurance company takes care of it," Duffy said.

The fatal collision between Williams Police Officer Brandon Hernandez and Innes occurred north of Williams on SR 64 near milepost 185.

Innes was declared dead at the scene of the accident from the impact of the collision. He was driving a 1999 Harley Davidson motorcycle and was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

Lt. Stephen Harrison, public information officer for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said that an investigation into the accident by the agency has been completed and reviewed by the Coconino County Attorney's Office.

"They didn't find any criminal wrongdoing on the part of Officer Hernandez. However, we did issue Officer Hernandez a traffic citation for making an improper turn," he said.

According to the report, Hernandez was traveling northbound on Highway 64 when he initiated a U-turn in order to cite a speeding southbound vehicle. Innes collided with the marked SUV as it turned. Conflicting accounts, however, were reported in the case, particularly as to whether or not the marked SUV crossed both the north and south bound lane from the shoulder of the road or whether it was already in the north bound lane. Hernandez stated he never saw a motorcycle, even after checking his mirrors, and initiated the U-turn from the northbound lane, according to the report.

Immediately following the accident, Hernandez was placed on a standard procedure three-day critical incident leave, according to WPD Chief Herman Nixon. Hernandez has returned to active duty.

Nixon said Hernandez faced disciplinary action from the police department for causing what was deemed an "avoidable" accident and has paid fines incurred from his citation.

"It was an accident," Nixon said. "Brandon made a mistake and he had an accident. That's what it comes down to. He faced the consequences from us, we're done with that and we're moving on from there."

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