Who has the best lights in town? Vote now for your favorite in our holiday lights contest.
In the trial's second day, the court heard from two drivers who witnessed the crash, among others.
William Daniel "Danny" Altice
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
ROCKY MOUNT — Carolyn Puckett wept when testifying Tuesday that she believed her life was about to end as she watched a fire truck collide with an SUV and then swerve and begin to roll in her direction.
“It started flipping and then it landed on top of my vehicle,” Puckett said. “I thought it was my time to go.”
On July 26, 2010, Puckett said, she was stopped on Virginia 40 in her Ford Mustang convertible, with the top down on a hot, clear afternoon, when she saw an SUV pulling out of School Board Road and watched as it seemed destined to collide with the eastbound fire truck.
She said the SUV, which she later learned was driven by Teri Anne Valentine, moved into the intersection.
Puckett said she thought, “Oh, gosh, she don’t see it.”
Puckett survived the collision’s aftermath. But two Rocky Mount volunteer firefighters did not. When the fire truck rolled, it ejected the driver, Posey Dillon, 59, and his sole passenger, William “Danny” Altice, 67. Both died of their injuries.
Later, Christie Altice-Weaver, the daughter of Danny Altice and executor of his estate, filed a lawsuit that alleges that both Valentine and Dillon acted negligently that day and that her father died as a result.
On Tuesday, Franklin County Circuit Court hosted the second day of a trial in which jurors ultimately will be asked to decide whether Valentine and/or Altice or neither acted negligently that day. Nine jurors are hearing the case. Two are alternates, and seven jurors will deliberate when the trial ends, which is likely to happen today.
An investigation by Virginia State Trooper R.D. Conley determined that Valentine faced a green light as she approached the intersection from School Board Road and that Dillon faced a red light.
Altice-Weaver’s lawsuit alleges that Valentine failed to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle with siren and lights engaged. And it contends that Dillon, as described in Conley’s report, “failed to proceed through the red light with due regard for safety.”
Valentine testified Monday that she does not know why she didn’t hear the fire truck’s siren and air horn or see its lights flashing until it was too late. Her SUV collided with the driver’s side of the fire truck.
Puckett and other witnesses testified Tuesday that they heard the fire truck’s sirens and air horn and saw its flashing lights as it responded to a report of a house fire in Union Hall.
Altice-Weaver’s lawsuit seeks a judgment of $2 million “plus taxable costs with interest from July 26, 2010, to the present.” The lawsuit suggests that Altice’s children were left to feel “unbelievable sorrow” and mental anguish in addition to losing his companionship and income.
Tony Russell and Kathleen Wright, the attorneys representing Altice-Weaver, called her and her brother, Carey Altice, along with Carey Altice’s daughter, Kayla Altice, 15, to testify about how Danny Altice’s death affected them. Kayla Altice lived with her grandfather at the time of his death.
Kayla testified that she wished she had told her grandfather she loved him when he left home for the fire call.
“Every day I wish I could have said something before he left,” she said.
Russell also called Wayne Hoover to the stand, and Judge William Alexander agreed after Russell interviewed Hoover about his training and experience that Hoover could testify as an expert on the operation of emergency vehicles.
Russell asked Hoover to comment on what a “reasonably prudent operator of an emergency vehicle” should anticipate as he approached a busy intersection en route to a call.
Among other things, Hoover said, such an operator should not assume that vehicles in the vicinity of the intersection will yield the right of way.
As Russell questioned Hoover, James Daniel, an attorney representing Ann Dillon and the estate of Posey Dillon, objected repeatedly that Hoover’s testimony was moving beyond the limits agreed upon during a conference with the lawyers and Alexander on Tuesday morning. Alexander sustained several objections but overruled others.
Ultimately, Hoover was precluded from expressing an opinion about the specific actions of Posey Dillon as he drove the fire truck into the intersection on July 26, 2010.
Weather JournalMix on Sat AM; coming blog changes