|Plaintiff: It was the worst day of my life|
This vehicle was involved in fatal fire truck crash on July 26, 2010. A wrongful death suit related to the incident began Monday in Franklin County Circuit Court.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
By KEN BRADLEY AND K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writers
Testimony continued Tuesday in a $2 million lawsuit filed by the estate of William D. "Danny" Altice against the estate of Posey W. Dillon in connection with a fatal fire truck wreck on July 26, 2010.
Nine jurors, six women and two men, are hearing the case, but only seven will deliberate the case at the end of the trial, which is expected to finish up today. (Wednesday, Sept. 25). Most of Monday was involved in selecting a jury from a pool of 50 people.
Dillon and Altice, both volunteer firefighters, were killed in the accident that occurred on Route 40 East.
The lawsuit also names Teri Anne Valentine as a defendant. Valentine was the driver of an 2007 Ford Escape SUV that was involved in the crash. She was not charged in connection with the incident.
The suit was filed by Christie A. Altice-Weaver, the daughter of Danny Altice and the executor of his estate.
On Tuesday, a number of eyewitnesses to the crash testified that when Valentine entered the intersection of Route 40 East and School Board Road and collided with the fire truck, she had a green light. Valentine was traveling on School Board Road before she attempted to cross the intersection onto Market Place Road beside Bojangles.
Virginia Dudley said she saw the collision from her vehicle on School Board Road while approaching the traffic signal at the intersection. She said the traffic signal was green when Valentine entered the intersection, and Valentine was not traveling fast.
Dudley also testified that she did not hear loud music coming from Valentine's vehicle.
Valentine has contended that she never heard the fire truck's siren or air horn. She said her air conditioning was on, her windows were rolled up and her radio was playing but not loud.
Carolyn Puckett, whose 2000 Mustang was struck by the fire truck, testified that she had left a shoe store on Route 40 East where she works and had begun traveling west on Route 40. Puckett said her vehicle was stopped in the left turn lane because the traffic signal was red.
Puckett also said she saw the fire truck and the SUV driven Valentine collide in the intersection. Neither the fire truck nor the SUV slowed down, and the SUV hit the side of the fire truck behind cab door.
"The fire truck rolled three times and landed on my car," Puckett said. "I thought it was my time to go."
Puckett also testified that she did not hear any loud music coming from Valentine's vehicle.
Dillon and Altice, who was riding in the passenger seat, were en route to a structure fire in Union Hall. Both were thrown from the fire truck. Neither man was wearing a seat belt.
The Virginia State Police investigation determined that Valentine had a green light and that the fire truck slowed at the intersection but did not stop.
The lawsuit alleges that Dillon was negligent because he entered and proceeded through the intersection against a red traffic signal... "acting with reckless disregard for the safety of others."
The lawsuit states that Valentine was negligent because she failed to yield the right-of-way to an approaching emergency vehicle with "lights and sirens activated."
As a result of Danny Altice's untimely death, funeral and burial expenses were incurred and his children have suffered and will continue to suffer sorrow and mental anguish, according to the lawsuit.
Altice-Weaver testified that she was raised by her father after her parents divorced when she was 13. She said her father was a "really good man and a hard worker."
"He was my hero," she added.
Altice-Weaver was living in South Carolina at the time of the fatal incident, but spoke with her father every other week, she said.
July 26, 2010 was the "worst day of my life," she testified. "His death has devastated my family. It will never be the same."
"The suddenness of his death is the worst.... I never got the chance to say 'goodbye'," she added. "My dad is priceless to me."
The plaintiff rested its case Tuesday afternoon. The defense was to start presenting its case Wednesday morning.