Diocese, priest settle suit in player's death

Updated: January 11, 2006, 4:45 AM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- The Roman Catholic diocese in Pittsburgh and a former priest have settled a lawsuit over the death of a Panthers football player who fell through a church ceiling while drunk and died.

The terms of the settlement weren't disclosed Tuesday, but the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, a diocesan spokesman, said it was "to the mutual satisfaction of all parties."

The parents of Pitt wide receiver Billy Gaines, Kimberly and William Gaines of Ijamsville, Md., had filed a federal lawsuit seeking $75 million from the diocese and the Rev. Henry W. Krawczyk.

Krawczyk had been accused of giving alcohol to minors before. The Gaines' suit contended Krawczyk was not properly disciplined for the past accusations.

Krawczyk was the only adult of legal drinking age at a cookout he hosted in the hours before the death of Gaines, 19, in June 2003. Gaines and another player were exploring a crawl space in the church when Gaines lost his balance while walking on a catwalk and fell through the ceiling below. He fell more than 20 feet to the floor below and died about 20 hours later of head and spinal injuries.

In February, Krawczyk pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and furnishing alcohol to minors and was sentenced to seven years' probation. The plea bargain was approved by Gaines' parents, who didn't want him to go to jail.

Bishop Donald Wuerl declared Krawczyk "permanently impeded from the exercise of orders," meaning he can never function or present himself as a priest again, Lengwin said.

The settlement will be covered by the diocese's insurance, Lengwin said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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