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Family of March Jackson County fatal crash victim files wrongful death lawsuit against driver

The lawsuit alleges the driver was on his phone at the time of the crash

BLACKMAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — 25-year-old Kory Wittman was a son, a brother to five siblings including a twin, loved nature and was regarded as a kind, gentle, family-oriented young man with a full life ahead of him. But, in March, Kory was hit and killed while he was out walking his dog, and now, the details of what happened are being pieced together as part of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Kory’s family.

“Adventurous, loved the wilderness,” Kory’s mom Tina Beagle said about her son. “He always gave. Whether it was literally the shirt off his back. One time we were coming home from the academy, and we stopped at a stop sign and there was a gentleman there holding a sign. So, he had me pull over, run all the way back, and he had some change in his pocket. And then, he took a couple of bills that I had on the counter because we just stopped at the store and run over and gave it to him, shook his hand and came back to the car. That’s how he was.”

“He was always there, literally a phone call away,” Kory’s twin sister Jellaca Wittman said. “The dad figure to my oldest daughter, Sophia. Her dad wasn’t in the picture, so he played that role and played it very well. Between teaching her how to blow bubbles to riding her bike to tying a shoe to flying a kite. He was the best father figure I could ask to have my kids have.”

On March 19 just after 7 a.m., Kory and his dog Faith were walking down Parnall Road in Blackman Township in the lane closest to the curb.

According to a police report, they were hit and killed by a driver going westbound on Parnall Road near the Grand River bridge. As a result of the force and location of the impact, Kory’s body was thrown off the north side of Parnall Road and into the nearby Grand River. First responders found Wittman face down in the river. He died at the scene.

The driver was 35-year-old Ingham County resident Zachary Grennell. He is named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Wittman’s family, which includes initial police report information that alleges Grennell was distracted by his phone around the time of the crash.

“This is another example of a preventable death where an individual should have been able to continue living a happy life with their family, enjoying their parents and their loved ones,” the family’s attorney Bruce Inosencio said. “Unfortunately, the actions of someone that was distracted by an electronic device seems to have taken his life.”

We reached out to Grennell and his attorneys Bryan Janes and Michael Slater for comment but received no response as of Monday afternoon.

But, we did receive a copy of their answer to the complaint.

Those documents show the defendant admits to driving his 2016 Jeep Cherokee on March 19 but denies the allegations that he was distracted by an electronic device while driving and as a result did not see Kory walking along Parnall Road.

He also denies that he failed to keep his vehicle under control.

Attorneys representing Grennell say Wittman was negligent in failing to act as a reasonable person and failed to take reasonable precautions for his own safety by failing to utilize a sidewalk and did not walk on the left side of the roadway facing traffic.

They are looking to dismiss all of the claims.

Wittman’s family is claiming damages in excess of $25,000.

It is important to note that no criminal charges have been filed against Grennell at this time.

They are due in court for a conference the first week of August with a tentative pre-trial hearing scheduled for March 2023.



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