Lawsuit: State, DOT Knew Employee Drank on the Job

By Dave Greber

May 2, 2012 Updated May 2, 2012 at 11:16 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) When a drunk Wendell Strum drove over the center line into the car driven by Nancy McQueeney, killing them both, it was the second time the two had met that day.

New York State Police say the 79-year-old Strum caused the crash because he was driving drunk.

A lawsuit filed earlier this year on behalf of McQueeney's estate against the state of New York, claims Strum was working at the time of the crash.

The lawsuit also states Strum was known to drink on the job, and that employees and supervisors at the Department of Transportation were aware of the problem.

Neither the lawsuit -- filed in the Albany Court of Claims -- nor the answer by the state's Attorney General's office, offers an explanation of whether Strum was scheduled to work on Oct. 7.

Strum was approaching his 54th anniversary working with the DOT, most recently as a bridge maintenance engineer.

State police say just after 3:30 p.m., Oct. 7, 2011, Strum was heading east on Route 434 when he crossed the center line near the Owego Town Hall, and hit McQueeney's black Volvo head on.

People familiar with the case and McQueeney, a 49-year-old mother, say she and Strum knew each other, and that they had interacted earlier that day at a community event.

Strum's white Honda Civic was a DOT-issued car, and one that he was allowed to drive to and from work for the past several years, according to his personnel file, which was obtained by Action News

State police say Strum's blood alcohol level tested at 0.12, more than the state's legal limit of .08.

State attorneys deny Strum was working at the time the crash occurred, and that DOT officials wre aware of whether Strum regularly consumed alcohol while on the clock.

Attorneys for the state also question whether McQueeney, who worked as a bus driver for the Owego-Apalachin School District, was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the crash.

The next court date is set for May 8 in Binghamton.

Michael McQueeney, Nancy's brother in law, is listed as the executor of the McQueeney estate. He declined comment when contacted Wednesday night. McQueeney had a teen daughter, Madison.