SNOW HILL — A $5 million settlement was reached this week in the civil suit filed by the family of “Baby Ava” against an Ocean Pines man who crashed his truck into them in Ocean City in December 2011.
In October 2012, Andre Kaczynski, now 51, of Ocean Pines was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to causing life-threatening injuries by motor vehicle while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance. Kaczynski was admittedly high on PCP when he sped through north Ocean City at speeds reaching over 90 mph before plowing into the rear of a vehicle stopped at a traffic signal at 142nd Street.
Around mid-day on Dec. 16, 2011, Kaczynski seriously injured Annemarie DelRicco and her then 18-month old daughter, Ava. The child had to be extricated from the totaled vehicle and was flown to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
Kaczynski’s own vehicle burst into flames and a later search of the truck revealed a bottle of PCP. Kaczynski later admitted smoking PCP while crossing the Route 90 bridge into Ocean City and barreling up Coastal Highway at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour before the fateful collision during which he never slowed or attempted to brake.
In August 2012, Kaczynski pleaded guilty to all 11 counts against him, including causing life-threatening injuries while impaired by PCP and was later sentenced to a total of 15 years, all but 10 years of which was then suspended. Following the criminal trial, the DelRicco family last March filed a civil suit in Worcester County Circuit Court against Kaczynski and the two businesses he owned and operated.
On Tuesday, the case was settled with a total of $5 million awarded to Baby Ava’s parents, George and Annemarie DelRicco, in three separate judgments. The largest is a judgment against Kazcynski in favor of Annemarie DelRicco totaling $4,050,000 and a second judgment in favor of Annemarie DelRicco totaling $800,000. A third judgment against Kaczynski in favor of George DelRicco totals $150,000.
The civil suit settlement likely brings a measure of closure to the DelRicco family at least in terms of the legal aspects of the incident, but they will continue to live with it for the rest of their lives. In the days and weeks following the brutal collision, the entire resort community embraced “Baby Ava” with a series of fundraisers and candlelight vigils for the once vibrant and active 18-month-old girl so full of promise.
Ava suffered severe head injuries, among other injuries and required immediate surgery to relieve the swelling of her brain. She remained in a coma following the initial surgery as her family and the entire resort community prayed for her survival. Four years and several surgeries later, Ava is blind and has severe brain damage, limiting her quality of life. She requires around-the-clock care and likely will for the rest of her life. At Kaczynski’s sentencing hearing, Annemarie DelRicco described a life now full of doctor’s visits and constant care.
“We miss our baby Ava as we knew her,” she said. “Everything she does now will be a miracle. We have entered a new world, and we can only pray for the best for Ava. I know Ava’s life will never be normal. She will not see a sunset or a rainbow. She’ll be trapped in her own world for the rest of her life.”
Meanwhile, Kaczynski remains behind bars serving a 10-year sentence and it is uncertain how he will begin to pay the $5 million settlement.
In a videotaped interview following the crash, Kaczynski told the investigating officers he had been out at a local bar the night before and got up around 7 a.m. on the morning of the collision. He said he used PCP that morning and ran some errands before returning to his house in Ocean Pines. He later got a call from an individual in Delaware about a contracting job and hit the road for a meeting with the potential client.
When asked about the last thing he remembered that morning, Kaczynski said he was driving for some reason and that he wanted to get there in a hurry. When asked how fast he was going, the suspect said he didn’t remember. Kaczynski said he didn’t remember the crash. He said he remembered making a left turn when he reached Ocean City, but he didn’t remember anything after that. When asked about the last time he smoked PCP, Kaczynski told the investigating officers he smoked the drug while crossing the bridge into Ocean City.
At the outset of the sentencing hearing in October 2012, Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby asked Judge Thomas C. Groton to consider a sentence of 21 years, the maximum allowed when enhanced penalties for repeat offenders were taken into consideration. Kaczynski had a laundry list of prior convictions for drugs, drinking and driving, drugging and driving and crashes, including one case the judge called “eerily similar” to the case at hand in 2008 when he plowed into the back of a tractor trailer while high on marijuana.