Civil suit filed in 2016 UTV death

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NEWFANE — The mother of a woman who was killed in a UTV crash in Westminster in 2016 has filed a civil suit against the driver of the UTV and a number of other people.

According to documents filed with Windham Superior Court, Civil Division, Rebecca Kemp, of Putney, is seeking in excess of $3 million in the death of her daughter, Angelique Frost, who was 23 at the time of her death.

Frost was a passenger on a side-by-side utility vehicle being driven by Andrew Ielpi, now 26, on May 22, 2016, when the vehicle hit a culvert on a privately owned road in Westminster. Frost was thrown from the vehicle and died of her injuries.

Ielpi was arraigned in Windham Superior Court, Criminal Division, on Feb. 1, 2017, and pleaded not guilty of one count of operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner. His case is scheduled to go to trial in September.

In addition to Ielpi, Kemp's attorneys, Costello Valente and Gentry of Brattleboro, have filed suit against his mother, Yesenia Major, and his step-father, David Major, and the owners of Milky Way Road — Mark Steinhardt, Barbara Sherrod and Robert Capote. According to the court documents, Capote was the owner of the utility vehicle.

"Andrew drove the UTV in a negligent manner and under the influence of marijuana over a defect in the surface of Milky Way Road," states the civil suit. "The defect created an unreasonable risk of harm ... [which] was or should have been obvious to defendants ..."

After the crash, states the criminal affidavit filed by the Vermont State Police, Ielpi told investigators that Frost urged him to drive "to go get some air" over the culvert, which Ielpi described as "... tall, it goes up like a ramp."

Following the crash, Ielpi told investigators he attempted to give Frost CPR before running to his car and calling his mother. He then drove his car to the crash scene, and loaded Frost into his vehicle. Halfway down the road, states the affidavit, Ielpi met his mother, who drove Ielpi and Frost to the Urgent Care Center in Bellows Falls. Because the Urgent Care Center was closed, they then took Frost to the Bellows Falls Police Department, where she was declared dead.

"Andrew, along with David and Yesenia, failed to call for assistance in a timely fashion, and instead negligently attempted to render care, and moved Angelique into a personal vehicle, which exacerbated her serious injuries, prevented her from receiving timely emergency treatment, and increased the risk that Angelique would die from her injuries," states the civil suit. "Instead of calling 911 or summoning emergency medical assistance ...[they] drove Angelique to an urgent care facility in Bellows Falls, rather than a hospital with an emergency room."

These actions by Ielpi, his mother and his step-father "resulted in her prolonged suffering and increased likelihood that she would die from her injuries."

Capote, Steinhardt and Sherrod are named in the civil suit because they "had a duty to exercise due care in the maintenance and upkeep of Milky Way Road ... [and] had a duty to protect invitees on their property from the defect on Milky Way Road."

According to the civil suit, Capote, who owned the UTV, had an additional responsibility because he "knew or should have known that Andrew was an incompetent driver."

The civil suit was filed on May 21 and has been served on all the defendants, according to court documents. However, Capote is the only one who has responded within the 30 days mandated by law. In his response, Capote maintained the UTV was driven with his knowledge and permission. He also denied that he owned the property where the crash happened.

Costello Valente and Gentry have filed motions seeking writs of attachment against the defendants. A writ of attachment may be granted by a court to used to freeze the assets of a defendant while a legal action is pending. A hearing to discuss the writs is scheduled for July 2.

In addition, Kemp's attorneys are seeking a writ of attachment for an unidentified trust fund in Ielpi's name.

Ielpi's biological father, Jonathan Ielpi, was 29 and a New York City firefighter who died when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund distributed awards to 2,880 of the 2,963 death claims filed. The average award was $2,082,128 and went as high as $7.1 million.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.

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