Steam Engine Operator's Wife Files Lawsuit

MEDINA, Ohio (AP) - An antique steam engine that blew up at the Medina County Fairgrounds had been inspected and deemed safe, according to a lawsuit the widow of the operator filed against a boiler repairman.

The lawsuit alleged that John Schrock was hired two years earlier to examine and repair components of the steam engine and told operator Clifford Kovacic that the machine was safe.

It is the first lawsuit filed in connection with the explosion that killed five and injured 48 others at the Medina County Fairgrounds on July 29.

Delores "Jane" Kovacic, who filed the suit, lost her husband, Clifford, and her son, William. She and her daughter, Elizabeth, both of Spencer in Medina County, were among those critically injured by scalding water and shrapnel.

Schrock, an adviser to the sheriff's technical team investigating the accident, declined to comment on the lawsuit, The Plain Dealer reported.

A sheriff's investigation blamed Kovacic's reckless operation of the machine and structural failure of its parts for the blast that propelled the 18-ton engine 15 feet into the air.

Jane Kovacic's lawsuit said that Schrock, who has 40 years of experience running and repairing steam-powered tractors, was hired by the Kovacics in 1999 to examine and repair the machine.

Jane Kovacic, administrator for the estates of her husband and son, wants compensation for their deaths, her mental anguish and loss of support and companionship.

Clifford Kovacic bought the hulking antique in 1997 from Clarence "Junior" Christian, a collector in New Paris, Ohio, who told sheriff's deputies he sold it "as is" for about $50,000.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)