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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Civil trial delayed in fatal 2010 fire truck crash

Friday, April 19, 2013

By KEN BRADLEY - Staff Writer

The court date for 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, has been postponed until September.

The civil trial was set to begin Monday in Franklin County Circuit Court.

The trial, now set to begin Sept. 23, is expected to last three days, according to court records.

Dillon and Altice, both Rocky Mount 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 SUV that was involved in the crash.

The suit was filed by Christie A. Altice-Weaver, the executor of Altice's estate.

The accident occurred when a fire truck driven by Dillon was traveling east through the intersection of Route 40 East and School Board Road at the same time a SUV driven by Valentine pulled out from School Board Road into the intersection.

The 2007 Ford Escape driven by Valentine, 41, of Rocky Mount, and the fire truck collided. The fire truck then hit the curb on the other side of the road and flipped, landing on top of another vehicle, a 2000 Mustang driven by Carolyn Puckett, 34, of Bassett.

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 lawsuit alleges that Dillon was "negligent, grossly negligent, careless and reckless" because Dillon had the duty to operate the fire truck with reasonable care and with due regard to others; the duty to keep a proper lookout; the duty to operate the fire truck at a reasonable speed under existing circumstances and traffic conditions, including the circumstance of entering and proceeding through an intersection against a red traffic signal; the duty to refrain from acting with reckless disregard for the safety of others; and the duty to bring the fire truck to a complete stop before entering an intersection against a red light.

The lawsuit states that Valentine was "negligent, grossly negligent, careless and reckless" because she had the duty to keep a proper lookout; the duty to keep her vehicle under proper control; the duty to yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles approaching with the lights and sirens activated, including stopping her vehicle; and the duty to operate her vehicle at a reasonable speed under the existing circumstances and traffic conditions.

As a result of the collision, the suit states that because of Danny Altice's untimely death, funeral and burial expenses were incurred and that his children have suffered and will continue to suffer sorrow and mental anguish.

Valentine, who was not charged in the accident, has also filed a cross lawsuit against the estate of Posey W. Dillon, and seeks $275,000.

The suit states that as a result of negligence by Dillon, Valentine has incurred and will incur in the future substantial medical and hospital bills in an effort to be cured of her injuries, some of which are permanent.

Also, the suit states that Valentine will continue to suffer severe physical pain and mental anguish; has suffered from phobias relating to driving and being seen in public; and in her efforts to recover, still necessitates counseling to this date.

The suit states that Valentine was proceeding through the intersection with a green light and alleges that the fire truck "did not have its lights and sirens in use when entering the intersection."

"Ms. Valentine was not aware, nor should she have been aware, of the presence of the fire truck near or in the intersection until she saw a 'flash' at her upper right, which she realized was the sun reflecting off something (the fire truck) that was high, shiny, and moving very fast through the intersection," the lawsuit alleges. "Upon seeing the 'flash,' Ms. Valentine first became aware of the presence of the fire truck. She responded by forcibly and immediately applying her brakes with both feet in an attempt to halt her Escape."

The suit alleges that before Valentine could stop, the fire truck hit her vehicle and "the fire truck's rear wheels rolled up and over the hood area of Ms. Valentine's Escape."

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