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Comstock, others file Bonfire lawsuits

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07

Two more lawsuits related to the deadly 1999 Aggie Bonfire collapse were filed Monday, the deadline to sue in connection with the accident, including one by the most severely injured survivor.

John Comstock and his mother, Dixie Edwards, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Galveston, said Lee Alford, the family's Bryan-based attorney. Comstock's left leg was amputated above the knee and his right arm was partially paralyzed after being trapped under the stack for seven hours.

Comstock was hospitalized for five months after the Nov. 18, 1999, collapse. He underwent intense physical therapy in Dallas, living at home and learning to walk, write and drive again. Comstock was able to return to the A&M campus for Fall 2001.

"The lawsuit was filed to protect his rights and see what, if anything, he is entitled to recover for the damages he sustained," Alford said.

Texas A&M President Dr. Ray M. Bowen, other school officials, several current and former students and several companies involved in constructing Bonfire were named as defendants, similar to other Bonfire lawsuits. All of the suits seek unspecified damages.

Comstock's federal lawsuit alleges Aggie Bonfire was a state-created danger that violated his civil rights.

Comstock said he could not comment on the suit at this time. In August, Comstock told media he was just glad to be back at A&M.

"I have to spend my energy towards rehabilitation and getting back to where I was," he said, "not in being upset about an accident."

Also filing a lawsuit Monday was Lauren Scanlan, who was injured in the collapse, and her parents.

The lawsuit was also filed in Galveston federal court and alleges the same civil rights violations.

Scanlan, who is from Rockport, suffered facial and head injuries, said Stephen DeWolf, her Dallas-based attorney.

The 90-year-old bonfire tradition was suspended until at least November 2002 after the collapse of the 59-foot-high wedding cake-like stack of more than 5,000 logs. An A&M commission blamed the collapse on flawed construction techniques and the lack of adequate supervision for the students assembling the stack. The report did not single out anyone for the collapse.

The families of six Aggies who died and five who were injured are known to have filed lawsuits in either state probate court, federal court or both.

Besides Scanlan, DeWolf also represents the families of victims Christopher Breen, of Austin, and Lucas Kimmel, of Corpus Christi, and Bill Davis, 26, of Bellaire, who was injured and has had metal plates placed in his face, arm and leg. These lawsuits were also filed in a Galveston federal court.

Fort Worth attorney Darrell Keith is representing Jacquelyn Self, mother of victim Jerry Don Self, of Arlington, and the first to sue. Keith also represents the families of victims Bryan McClain, of San Antonio, Christopher Heard, of Houston, and Chad Powell, of Keller, as well a Matthew Lynn Robbins and Dominic Braus, who were injured, and Braus' mother Nancy.

Jacquelyn Self's suit has been filed in both Tarrant County Probate Court in Fort Worth and federal court in Galveston. While Keith represents Powell's family In federal court, Fort Worth attorney Geno Borchardt represents his family in the suit filled in Tarrant County probate court.

Besides suing in federal court, McClain's family filed a lawsuit in Bexar County probate court and Heard's family filed one in Harris County probate court.

Monday marked the last day suits involving the 1999 collapse could be filed under the state's two-year statue of limitation for accidents of this nature. The attorney general's office allowed for a one day extension past the Nov.18 date of the accident because the anniversary fell on a Sunday this year.

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