March 3, 2013

Family sues county for expenses related to Azle wreck

Randall Moore was driving along a hilly, two-lane county road in Azle late at night last year when he saw the flashing light bar in the distance.

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AZLE -- Randall Moore was driving along a hilly, two-lane county road late at night last year when he saw the flashing light bar in the distance.

He didn't hear any sirens, but Moore -- who was pulling a trailer with three horses inside -- slowed down because he thought the deputy had stopped someone. His wife and two children were following close behind in an SUV

But the Tarrant County Sheriff Department's Chevrolet Tahoe slipped in and out of Moore's lane, eventually hitting his pickup near the driver's side door before slamming into the horse trailer and forcing them both off the road. His wife's vehicle ended up in the ditch, too.

Deputy Christopher Dearing's vehicle landed in the ditch on the other side of the road.

"I ran up to Randy's truck, and quite honestly, I didn't know if he was alive. Then, he started moving and talking to us," Tammy Moore said, recalling the accident scene almost a year later. "It was a horrific night."

Investigators eventually found that Dearing was negligent, and the deputy was given five days off without pay, with even the deputy admitting in a statement obtained by the Star-Telegram that the wreck was entirely his fault.

But the Moores, who claim Dearing was going too fast and failed to follow department procedures, are now suing Tarrant County because it has declined to pay some of Randall Moore's medical bills, which top $60,000. The county also has declined to pay veterinary bills for their three horses.

Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Chris Ponder said, "The county takes this case very seriously, and has done so from the beginning."

He added that Deputy Dearing was responding to an emergency call involving a weapon.

The Moores said they still think about the wreck and have a hard time driving on Silver Creek Road.

"Anytime we drive at night, I take another road," Tammy Moore said.

Kirsten Moore, their daughter, said shortly after the wreck, she had nightmares, and her mother would often wake her up to calm her.

The crash

Dearing was responding to a call that the Sheriff's Department had received at about 10 p.m. about a man who had threatened to kill himself with a knife. The dispatcher also told the deputy that the man had barricaded himself inside his residence.

Dearing, who had been parked on the side of Silver Creek Azle Road and Flat Rock Road, immediately hit 35 mph in his Tahoe then asked the dispatcher for permission for a "run code," which he used to boost his speed to about 45 mph and turn on his emergency lights and siren.

But about four minutes after receiving that code, Sgt. John Keifer said, he received a call from a confused Dearing saying that he had lacerations to his face and that he had been involved in an accident on Silver Creek Azle Road, according to reports obtained by the Star-Telegram.

Dearing had run into the Moores, who were returning from a night of riding their horses at the Ash Creek Arena. Randall Moore was pulling a trailer with three horses -- Duck, Jorgie and Rowdy. Tammy Moore was following in her Tahoe with their children Kirsten and Justin in the back.

After being hit by Dearing, Moore's Ford F-350 pickup and trailer ended up in a ditch on the west side of the road with the trailer resting at a 45-degree angle. Dearing's vehicle, which had swerved toward the Tahoe being driven by Tammy Moore, landed in the ditch on the east side of the road.

Tammy Moore described how she immediately went to her husband's truck and saw him slumped over, leaning toward the passenger's seat. He started moving, and Moore helped her husband from the truck. She and her daughter then went and helped Dearing get out of his wrecked Tahoe.

"I still can't believe that I was somehow blessed enough to walk away from that crash with only a broken nose and herniated discs in my neck," Dearing wrote in a statement after the accident.

Meanwhile, Justin, began complaining that his neck hurt. Tammy Moore left the scene with him in an ambulance to Cook Children's Medical Center, leaving her husband and daughter to deal with the injured horses.

Randall and Tammy Moore said the scene was chaotic, and they heard the "thunderous sound" of their horses' hooves as they tried to regain their footing in the trailer. Kirsten thought her horse Duck was dead because he was unconscious and was lying in a fetal position. Jorgie had a deep cut on his left leg, and Rowdy was limping.

Eventually Randall Moore was taken to an Azle hospital for treatment of injuries to his neck, back and hips. He later had surgery because of the accident. Dearing was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for deep cuts on his face and a broken nose.

Disciplinary action

Dearing told Azle police that he had caused the accident. Investigators from the Sheriff's Department found that Dearing was negligent and failed to control his speed, which caused a major accident resulting in injuries and "significant property damage," according to documents obtained by the Star-Telegram.

A Sheriff's Department disciplinary board recommended that Dearing be suspended for five days without pay. Last August, Dearing appealed the decision, but lost.

Randall Moore, who owns a heating and air-conditioning company, said he lost much of the income that helps his family during the winter when business is slow. After the accident, Moore had surgery and went through physical therapy and couldn't keep a regular work schedule. The medical bills are over $60,000.

Moore's attorney Brian Cartwright said the family tried to reach a settlement with the county but sued because the county stopped paying some expenses, such as veterinary bills for the horses.

Ponder said that the county paid some of the Moores' expenses, including damage to his truck and much of his equipment.

"We have made a significant offer to Mr. Moore to settle his claims," Ponder said.

Ponder declined to give details of the settlement offer.

The Moores also said they are still emotional when talking about the accident.

"I remember asking the deputy why he was going so fast," Randall Moore said.

Elizabeth Campbell,


Twitter: @fwstliz

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