Arrest affidavit reveals details of February accident that claimed two lives

A police report about the Feb. 11 accident that left two Milford residents dead raises questions about how the driver who hit them did not see the family walking in the road.

The Tanski family was walking with two colorful umbrellas, one yellow and blue and the other pink, when the Ford Explorer, an SUV, driven by James Dorso II, 31, of Milford, hit them.

The two umbrellas lay in the road on Bridgeport Avenue in Devon when police began their investigation into the accident.

Dorso was arrested this past weekend and charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter and one count of reckless driving.

Dorso was cooperative with police at the scene, and he had a valid driver’s license and insurance, but this was not the first time he’d been involved in a motor vehicle accident.

According to the police investigator, in-house computer records revealed an extensive police history with Dorso.

In 1998, he was the victim of a motor vehicle accident in which he suffered a traumatic brain injury, according to a warrant affidavit.

After being released from the hospital, “he was found to be prone to violence and was arrested in 1998 for domestic violence,” the report states.

In 1999, he was the at-fault driver in an accident where he rear-ended another vehicle.

In 2000 he was arrested for brandishing a knife and nail gun, threatening juveniles.

In 2001, he was involved in a  breach of peace incident. Again in 2001, he was at fault for striking a juvenile bicyclist who was crossing the street, police said. He received an infraction for that.

In 2007, he was driving a vehicle that struck a juvenile girl. “He again was found at fault and was issued a warning for unsafe start of a motor vehicle,” police reported.

In 2012, police investigated him because he was suspected of threatening to “kill somebody and stuff them like a scarecrow.”

A year after that, Feb. 11, 2013, he struck the Tanski family as they walked in the roadway after a major blizzard.

Dorso voluntarily turned himself in to police May 4. He was released from police custody on $25,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court in Milford May 28. His driving privileges have been suspended.

The accident occurred  at 11:19 a.m. at a time when heavy snow covered city streets and sidewalks. Dorso’s Ford Explorer struck four people walking on Bridgeport Avenue near Cowles Street, and two of them later died, Kevin Tanski, 53, and his wife, Brenda Tanski, 51.

The couple’s children, Jenny Tanski, 21, and Courtney Tanski, 14, were taken to Bridgeport Hospital after the accident. Jenny suffered minor injuries and Courtney was not hurt.

The family had been walking on that day to Dunkin’ Donuts.

Jenny Tanski told police that she and her family left their home at 23 Ellis Street on foot. They could not drive because their street was not plowed yet. They were walking single file on Bridgeport Avenue as far to the right edge of the roadway as possible, the police report states.

“On Feb. 8 and 9, Connecticut had endured one of the worst blizzards on record in decades,” the investigating officer wrote. “The Milford area was one of several towns that had received in excess of three feet of snow, crippling the city as well as a majority of Connecticut.”

“During this time, a state of emergency was declared, closing state highways.

“There was still a large amount of snow and slush on the right-hand lanes in each direction. There were piles of snow on the sidewalks and snow shelves in excess of three feet, and in the area of the collision as high as the parked vehicles on the roadway,” the police report states.

A light rain was falling.

It was at this time that Dorso, according to an arrest affidavit, was driving his Ford Explorer east on Bridgeport Avenue, also headed to Dunkin’ Donuts. Various witnesses say he was driving fast when he closed the gap between himself and the Chevy S10 in front of him.

“The Ford Explorer then passed him on the right,” the report states. “[The Chevy driver’s] first reaction was that the Explorer was going to hit the pedestrians. The Explorer did in fact hit several of the pedestrians.”

First Dorso’s Ford Explorer hit Kevin Tanski, throwing him into a snowbank. Then Brenda Tanski was hit and was thrown onto the roadway. Jenny Tanski was hit next and was knocked to the right side of the road. The youngest daughter was not hit.

Dorso told police his vehicle got caught in the slush, pulling him to the right towards the Tanskis. He said he tried unsuccessfully to counter-steer and brake.

"He then stopped his car and was petrified," according to the report. He sat in his vehicle and called a family member and 911.

Kevin died Feb. 13, and Brenda died Feb. 16.

Kevin and Brenda worked for the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital, according to a VA Hospital website.

Comments posted about the couple shortly after the accident painted a picture of a loving couple dedicated to their family.

“Words alone cannot begin to express the sadness at the loss of Brenda and Kevin,” one post read. “They were so dedicated to their family, friends, co-workers, and most especially, to each other.”

Another comment stated, “Brenda Rhoades Tanski’s never-ending energy to care for veterans and their families will be greatly missed.”

“My heart goes out for their children,” another post read. “Losing both parents is a big tragedy … may God give them peace.”

The investigator wrote that he tried numerous times after the accident to meet with Dorso by contacting his attorney, but the attorney did not respond.

“It had remained unclear as to how he did not see the family of pedestrians in the roadway with the bright-colored umbrellas,” the investigator wrote.