25 Investigates: Billerica auto auction, site of deadly crash, has history of serious injuries

BILLERICA, Mass. — Police and federal authorities are investigating after three people were killed and several more injured by an out-of-control Jeep inside a Billerica auto auction Wednesday morning, but 25 Investigates has learned this isn’t the first time people have been seriously injured at the site.

Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen found previous safety violations and several negligence lawsuits filed against Lynnway Auto Auction.

OSHA hit the company with two serious violations in 2014, citing the facility “failed to require the use of traffic control devices,” putting employees at risk among moving vehicles.

25 Investigates also found at least three motor vehicle negligence lawsuits against Lynnway Auto Auction going back as far as 2004.

The North Andover lawyer, who filed one of those lawsuits against the company in 2011, said he’s troubled by the similarities his past case shares with Wednesday’s accident.

“This is preventable, ok,” Stephen D’Angelo. “This is another case of a system failure.”

D’Angelo filed the lawsuit on behalf of a man who suffered kidney failure and a crushed leg – which required surgery, a plate and 11 screws – in the Nov. 9, 2011 crash at the auction facility, according to court documents.

The lawsuit stated that a vehicle just sold at auction “was pushed by a tow truck into a crowd of people.”

Court documents show the vehicle involved in the crash “lacked proper braking capability.”

D’Angelo said he couldn’t discuss the outcome of his lawsuit against the company, but court records show it was resolved in 2014.

D’Angelo said the Billerica auto auctions can be a chaotic place with potential buyers crowding around moving cars, which are sold very quickly, and he questions how carefully the business is choosing its drivers.

“How do they vet these people and make sure that they're properly trained and not get flustered when they have all of these people surrounding the car?,” said D’Angelo.

But Billerica Fire Chief Thomas Conway didn’t raise any red flags about operations at the business in the wake of Wednesday’s deadly crash.

“As far as I'm aware of, everything in this building – they're a first class operation. Everything is up to date,” said Conway.

25 Investigates tried to reach out to the owner of Lynnway Auto Auction.

An employee who answered the phone said the owner has no comment about today’s accident or previous incidents.