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Father sues GM over death of baby in fiery wreck

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Antoinette Johnson and Darrell Jenkins with their baby, Alina Johnson. Antoinette and Alina died in a fiery crash on State Road 80 near Belle Glade in December. Jenkins is suing General Motors, the truck driver and the company where the driver worked in connection with his daughter’s death. [Family photo]

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Antoinette Johnson’s Impala after it burst into flames after a dump truck turned in front of her. She and her 5-week-old daughter, Alina, were killed. Her fiance, Darrell Jenkins, is suing General Motors, the truck driver and the company where the driver worked in connection with his daughter’s death. [Family photo]

Darrell Jenkins sues after the death in a fiery wreck of his 5-week-old daughter, Alina Johnson, and her mother, Antoinette Johnson.

A fiery crash that caused the deaths of a 5-week old baby and her 26-year-old mother on State Road 80 near Belle Glade in December sparked a lawsuit this week that accuses General Motors of failing to build key safety features into Chevrolet Impalas.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Darrell Jenkins, the father of the infant, also blames the driver of a dump truck who was cited for failure to yield to oncoming traffic in the crash that claimed the lives of Antoinette Johnson and the couple’s baby, Alina Johnson.

While Jenkins is suing truck driver Feneck Pierre-Louis in connection with the crash, attorney Scott Smith said the auto giant is responsible for the infant’s death.

“Mr. Pierre-Louis caused the accident, but the defect in the fuel system caused Alina Johnson’s death,” said Smith, who represents the 30-year-old Pahokee man in the lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

The medical examiner said Alina didn’t die from injuries sustained when her mother’s Impala crashed into the side of Pierre-Lewis’ truck when it turned in front of her onto Hatton Highway, Smith said.

Instead, it said the baby died of smoke inhalation and burns. Had she and her mother, who was knocked unconscious, been able to escape from the car, both could have survived.

Attorney Benjamin Bedard, who represents Pierre-Louis, didn’t return a phone call for comment. But, Smith said, during an interview the 52-year-old Loxahatchee man said he tried to rescue Antoinette Johnson before the Impala burst into flames. He didn’t realize the baby, strapped into a car seat, was in the back seat.

If the Impala’s fuel system automatically shut down in a crash, the vehicle wouldn’t have erupted in flames, Smith said. “The fuel system continued to add fuel to the fire,” he said.

Jim Cain, a spokesman for GM, said they hadn’t received Smith’s 62-page lawsuit so couldn’t comment specifically on the allegations

We don’t have all the facts but we understand from police reports this was a high-speed collision between a car and and fully-loaded dump truck,” Cain said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to those involved in this tragedy.

Smith is also suing Kee-Lo LLC, in Clewiston, where Pierre-Louis worked as an independent contractor. Another law firm is representing Antoinette Johnson’s family and may file a separate lawsuit, Smith said.

He said he didn’t know how much he would be seeking to compensate Jenkins for the loss of his young daughter.

Jenkins and Johnson were planning to marry, he said. “Darrell’s loss is very, very substantial,” Smith said. “His entire future was taken away from him.”

jmusgrave@pbpost.com

@pbpcourts

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