Danny Altice, a longtime volunteer with the Rocky Mount Fire Department, was killed in a fire truck crash on July 26, 2010, along with Chief Posey Dillon.
Friday, September 27, 2013
By KEN BRADLEY AND K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writers
A Franklin County jury found in favor of the plaintiff, Christie Altice-Weaver, Wednesday evening against Teri Anne Valentine in a wrongful death lawsuit in conjunction with a a fatal fire truck crash on July 26, 2010.
Valentine, the driver of the SUV that struck the fire truck at the intersection of Route 40 and School Board Road, was ordered to pay only $9,984.37 for funeral and burial expenses for firefighter Danny Altice, who was killed in the crash.
However, the jury found in favor of Posey Dillon's estate, finding no negligence on his part in the crash. Dillon was driving the fire truck at the time and also died of his injuries.
Altice-Weaver, Danny Altice's daughter and the executor of his estate, was seeking $2 million, plus "taxable costs with interest."
The seven-member jury deliberated for two and one-half hours before returning at 5 p.m. with a verdict.
On Wednesday, the defense presented its case after the attorneys for the plaintiff rested their case Tuesday afternoon.
Ann Dillon, Posey Dillon's wife and executor of his estate, testified that her husband of 35 1/2 years became fire chief in 1990, but he had been a member of the Rocky Mount Volunteer Fire Department for 33 1/2 years. She said the fire department was the center of her husband's life.
"He lived and breathed it," she added.
Bob Gregory, a telephone repair man, testified that he was driving his repair van on Route 40 toward Bedford and saw the accident as it occurred.
He was stopped at the traffic signal at the intersection because the traffic signal was red, Gregory said. The fire truck came by him in the right lane next to his van and then was struck by the SUV driven by Valentine.
Gregory said Valentine came off School Board Road and entered the intersection where she struck the backside of fire truck on the driver's side, pushing the fire truck into the curb, causing the fire truck to roll three times before it came to a halt on the hood of another vehicle.
The fire truck slowed to a rolling stop before speeding up as it entered the intersection, Gregory said, even though the traffic signal was red.
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 during the crash. 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. No charges were filed.
The lawsuit alleged 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 stated that Valentine was negligent because she failed to yield the right-of-way to an approaching emergency vehicle with "lights and sirens activated."
Valentine had said she did not hear or see the fire truck.
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, the lawsuit stated.
Altice-Weaver testified Tuesday 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.
"His death has devastated my family. It will never be the same," she said. "I never got the chance to say 'goodbye'."