Kevin Wright, a 55-year-old father of two children, was killed last August when he was attending a family reunion/backyard party hosted by Jelly Belly CEO Lisa Rowland Brasher and her husband, Dwayne Brasher. Wright was crushed to death when he was run over by a World War II tank in the backyard that was being operated by Dwayne Brasher. Although it was ruled accidental, the family of Kevin Wright is suing for wrongful death.
The Rowland family home in California houses several pieces of World War II machinery, as the family are collectors and fans of World War II memorabilia. Dwayne Brasher was taking the 1944 historic tank on a joyride when the unthinkable happened.
Wright was in the passenger seat of the tank, with Brasher driving, and the two were not wearing any type of safety restraint. They decided to build up some hills to make the ride more interesting. Unfortunately, as Brasher accelerated the tank over one of the hills, Wright was ejected from the passenger seat, thrown in the way of the tank, and immediately crushed under its weight. All attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Drugs and alcohol appear to play no part in the deadly accident, but Wright’s family alleges that poor decision-making did.
According to the lawsuit filed last week, the family believes that Brasher was needlessly endangering everyone at the event by driving the tank. Family attorney Peter Alfert believes that someone untrained to operate the tank should not have been, according to NBC News.
“If people had been careful, it wouldn’t have happened.”
At the time of the incident, the Rowland family offered condolences and kind words about the victim, who had been hired to help maintain the tanks.
“We are in a state of shock. The gentleman involved in this accident was a passionate person, always ready to lend a hand and we shared the same deep-rooted love of history. To have him die so tragically during our family reunion is impossible to comprehend.”
Alfert says the family is still reeling from the tragedy and has never recovered from the loss of Mr. Wright, citing that Wright had been the caretaker for his 80-year-old father and the only living parent of two adult children. Their mother had died years before.
“They had a close relationship with their father, and at that point, he was their only surviving parent.”
Rowland has 30 days to respond to the wrongful death and negligence civil suit against him. Why the family has only recently filed is unknown.
Jelly Belly is a form of candy popular in the United States. The family who owns the business has a California estate, although their net worth in dollars has not been released. There’s no dispute that Wright willingly got in the tank or that he assisted with the hill-building that ultimately caused him to be thrown from the tank and to his death.
Ownership of World War II tanks outside of museums is not common, nor are they commonly operated except in reenactment demonstrations. It’s unclear what type of training or endorsement one needs to legally operate one or where it may be operated.
In the event of being run over by a tank, the sheer weight of the tank would have crushed all internal organs instantly, leading to hypovolemic shock and cardiac arrest. Wright’s family argues that Brasher should have updated the tank by installing safety belts and other safety features that were not present during World War II unless it was to be used as a museum piece only.
It’s unclear how frequently the tank was operated by Brasher nor how much experience he had with driving it.
[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]