September 25, 2023
Crime & Courts | Daily Chronicle

Crime & Courts

NIU student sues firefighter accused in fatal DUI crash

DeKALB – A 23-year-old Northern Illinois University student injured in a fatal crash near DeKalb is suing a firefighter charged with aggravated drunken driving in connection with the collision.

Evan Cortez, 23, of Elgin, was in the passenger seat of a car with Johnathon R. Ode, 18, of DeKalb at the time of the crash. Ode, a senior at DeKalb High School, was killed in the Jan. 17 crash on Route 38 east of Peace Road in DeKalb County.

Police said John A. Yanni III, 25, of St. Charles, was driving a pickup truck west on Route 38 when his vehicle crossed the highway's center line. After sideswiping one oncoming vehicle, he collided head-on with Ode and Cortez, police have said.

Cortez was taken to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford with serious injuries after the crash. The lawsuit, filed this week in Kane County, claims Cortez suffered permanent injuries. It doesn’t detail the nature of the injuries.

“Evan is blessed to have survived this horrific crash, but his injuries are severe and permanent. He faces a very, very long road to recovery,” Craig Brown, a partner at St. Charles law firm Meyers & Flowers, said in a statement. “We are working closely with Evan and his family and have committed the full resources of our firm to help him obtain justice while he focuses on his physical and emotional recovery.”

Cortez underwent multiple surgeries at the hospital. He recently was transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility and hasn’t had a chance to pay his respects to Ode or his family.

“He’s been mourning the loss of his best friend from a hospital bed,” Brown said.

Cortez’s recovery could take many months, but “he may never make a full recovery,” his attorney said.

Yanni, a firefighter and paramedic at Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District, has been charged with aggravated driving under the influence and reckless homicide. If convicted, he could face three to 14 years in prison.

The lawsuit claims Yanni was negligent for driving while under the influence of alcohol and is responsible for the crash.

It seeks compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and “loss of normal life.” It doesn’t seek a specific dollar amount.

A case management conference in the lawsuit is set for April 12.