The survivor of a fatal DUI crash that killed his wife has sued the man he says is responsible, and the owner of the vehicle — the man’s father — for allowing him to get behind the wheel with both a suspended license and a long history of DUI convictions.
In a lawsuit filed in Delaware County last week, Christian Eckman contends that “the negligent and reckless conduct” of David Strowhouer and his father, William Strowhouer Jr., were “substantial contributing” factors in the death of Eckman’s wife, Deana, on Feb. 16.
Eckman, 47, is seeking more than $50,000 in damages for the physical and emotional injuries he suffered in the crash, the suit said.
The lawyer who filed the suit, Francis J. Curran Jr., called the crash “an unspeakable tragedy."
“I think the number-one priority, not only for the family, but for our entire community, is to make sure justice is served criminally first,” he said.
It was unclear whether either defendant had retained an attorney in the civil case. William Strowhouer Jr., 71, did not return a request for comment Monday. His son remains in Delaware County jail, denied bail and facing multiple felony charges in a related criminal case.
David Strowhouer, 30, was driving a Dodge Ram pickup truck in Upper Chichester Township on the night of the crash when he attempted to pass a van in front of him on the left, according to witnesses and investigators who testified at a preliminary hearing on Thursday.
In doing so, Strowhouer veered into oncoming traffic and crashed head-on into the Subaru WRX driven by Eckman. The damage to both cars was severe, and Deana Eckman, 45, was pronounced dead at the scene. Later, investigators determined that Strowhouer had a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal limit, and had traces of cocaine, marijuana, and Valium in his system.
Eckman, in his lawsuit, alleges that Strowhouer was improperly given access to the pickup truck by his father, with whom he lived in Newtown Square. Strowhouer drove the vehicle, registered to his father’s medically assisted weight loss clinic in Media, on the morning of Feb. 16, according to the civil complaint.
The two rode in it to a funeral for Strowhouer’s mother and, later, to a memorial service at Barnaby’s in Havertown, where Strowhouer “drank an excess amount of alcohol and was visibly intoxicated.”
That initial trip was, in itself, illegal: Strowhouer’s license in Pennsylvania was suspended because he had five DUI convictions between 2010 and 2017. A second driver’s license, registered in Florida, was expired at the time of the crash, according to police.
From Barnaby’s, William Strowhouer III, David’s brother, drove the truck back to his house in Newtown Square. There, David Strowhouer “continued to consume alcoholic beverages,” and later took the vehicle against his family’s will, according to the lawsuit.
About 20 minutes later, Strowhouer’s truck collided with the Eckmans’ Subaru, killing Deana Eckman. Strowhouer initially fled the scene, but then returned, claiming to have been a passenger in the ruined truck. Forensic evidence later debunked his account of the crash, investigators have said.