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Coach injured in fatal lacrosse team bus accident files suit

A Baltimore resident and former Pennsylvania college lacrosse coach injured in a fatal team bus accident two years ago has filed suit against the bus operator.

Cristen Sanfilippo, a graduate assistant coach on the women’s team at Seton Hill University, was thrown from the bus after it drove off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and hit a tree in March 2013, according to the lawsuit, filed in late February in a Pennsylvania state court.

Sanfilippo sustained a concussion and continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages from Mlaker Transportation Inc. as well as the estate of bus driver Anthony Guaetta.

The lawsuit alleges Guaetta fell asleep at the wheel and was driving on less than five hours of sleep after working at his regular job until 10 p.m. the night before. Guaetta died in the accident, along with Seton Hill coach Kristina Quigley and her unborn son, Jackson.

“Accidents like this are entirely preventable,” said Judson H. Lipowitz of Azrael, Franz, Schwab & Lipowitz LLC in Towson, who is local counsel for Sanfilippo along with colleague John R. Solter Jr.

Twenty-three players and coaches on Seton Hill’s lacrosse team were on the bus, which crashed near Carlisle on its way to Millersville University for a game. Guaetta was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident and there were no indications he tried to use the brakes or avoid hitting the tree, according to an accident investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police.

An autopsy revealed Guaetta had no prior medical conditions or drugs or alcohol in his system. Solter dismissed a coroner’s observation that Guaetta could have had a heart attack or another health issue, which in turn caused the crash.

“A commercial carrier like Mlaker has to do a better job of creating and enforcing rules so that drivers aren’t coming to work and falling asleep,” Solter said.

Craig Mlaker, president of Mlaker Charters & Tours, was not in the company’s office Wednesday and was unavailable for comment.

Sanfilippo has shelved her dream of becoming a lacrosse head coach because of the bus travel involved, Solter said. Sanfilippo has “recurring nightmares of the horrific crash, being ejected from the bus, awaking next to the deceased bus driver and observing her dying friend and coworker, Kristina Quigley,” the complaint states.

Sanfilippo’s lawsuit is one of several filed in connection with the crash; Solter said all of the lawsuits will be consolidated into one case sometime after March 16, when the two year statute of limitations for filing a claim expires.