Family of Geneva teen killed in fiery DUI crash sues friend who was driving
A wrongful-death lawsuit has been filed against a 20-year-old Geneva man accused of DUI in an October 2017 crash in St. Charles Township that killed his friend, Nicholas D. Hanson.
Raphael P. Peruzza admitted to drinking earlier that night when his vehicle went airborne after driving through a culvert and clipping the tops of trees before landing on its side and bursting into flames, according to a Kane County sheriff's report obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Hanson, 19, of Geneva, was trapped inside the burning Jeep Cherokee and died at the scene, the report said.
Peruzza, of the 2000 block of Eldorado Drive, is charged with aggravated DUI, reckless homicide, driving in the wrong lane and driving too fast for conditions in the early morning crash, according to Kane County court records.
Hanson's parents filed suit late last week, seeking unspecified damages in their son's death. The lawsuit names Peruzza and David Beaune, owner of the 2000 Jeep Cherokee driven by Peruzza in the crash, as defendants.
The suit argues Peruzza was negligent, speeding and didn't slow down while heading south on Burr Road near Dean Street before leaving the roadway and hitting a tree.
Although Peruzza, who was 19 at that time, is accused of having a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 or above in the crash, the suit does not cite impairment or alcohol consumption as a reason for negligence.
A message left for Andrew Stevens, attorney for the Hanson family, was not immediately returned.
According to the sheriff's report, authorities responded at 2:16 a.m. to Burr Road for a crash, and found a bloodied Peruzza who asked police to "help my friend."
Authorities determined a passenger was killed inside the Jeep and took Peruzza to Delnor Hospital in Geneva for his injuries, which were not life threatening.
At the hospital, Peruzza told authorities he and Hanson went to a mutual friend's house in Elgin to watch a football game the night of Oct. 5. Peruzza said he had four beers beginning at 8 p.m., finished his last drink sometime during the third quarter and offered to drive Hanson home.
Peruzza smelled of alcohol and a blood sample showed he was over the legal threshold of .08; his BAC was redacted from the sheriff's report.
It was unclear if Peruzza had retained an attorney for the lawsuit. A message left with Earl Vergara, who is representing Peruzza in the criminal case, was not returned.
Peruzza's bail was set at $200,000 in October, but Judge William Parkhurst released Peruzza on his own recognizance, records show.
Peruzza is next due in court on the aggravated DUI charges on July 11. He has pleaded not guilty and if convicted of the most severe charge, faces up to 14 years in prison.
The two sides are due in court on Aug. 15 for the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.