Four victims lost their lives and two others were injured in a fiery collision on Highway 378 in Lexington County on the afternoon of Friday, November 20, 2015. The four vehicles involved in the crash were a Ford van, a GMC SUV, a Chevy pickup, and a Ford SUV.
According to Sgt. Bob Beres with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the Chevy pickup was westbound and the other three vehicles were eastbound. Initial reports indicated that the Chevy pickup entered into the eastbound lanes and struck the side of the Ford van. The van spun around and was struck by the GMC SUV. The Chevy pickup continued in the eastbound lanes until it struck the Ford SUV, which burst into flames.
The deadly crash remains under investigation.
Remembering the victims
The drivers of the GMC SUV and the Ford van were taken to a nearby hospital with unspecified, non-life-threatening injuries. They have not been identified. The driver of the Chevy pickup was identified as 62-year-old Robert Moore of Leesville. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. It is unknown if he was intoxicated at the time of the crash or perhaps fell asleep behind the wheel when he crossed the center line.
The three victims in the Ford SUV were all pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. They have been identified as 73-year-old Harry Gunnells and his wife, 74-year-old Barbara Gunnells of Saluda. They were traveling with their grandson, 16-year-old Steven “Cooper” Gunnells.
The teenager was a junior at Greenwood High School. He is remembered for his musical talent. His grandparents had been taking him to a concert to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra when the crash claimed their lives. Cooper’s cousin, Bryce Compton, told reporters that Cooper was confined to a wheelchair because of spina bifida. His grandfather went to every school football game with Cooper to push his wheelchair onto the field so that he could play trumpet in the band.
Civil liability issues in South Carolina
Victims of car crashes in South Carolina have legal options. In this state, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is three years after the accident. South Carolina is a tort liability state. This means that the not-at-fault victim can file a claim against the at-fault defendant. A lawyer may prove liability in court by using witness testimony, police reports, crash reconstruction reports, and any other available evidence such as toxicology results to prove drunk driving or cellphone records that prove distracted driving.
In the case of this recent Lexington County collision, the decedent’s family members may have the option of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Since the prospective defendant also died in the crash, the surviving family members of the teen and his grandparents might file a wrongful death lawsuit against the deceased defendant’s estate. Alternatively, they may file a claim against the decedent’s insurance carrier to seek a settlement.
Legal assistance for South Carolinians
South Carolina personal injury lawyer Michael Jeffcoat works closely with the family members of car crash victims to help them pursue justice for their loved ones. If you would like to discuss your options for legal recourse, please call The Jeffcoat Firm at (803) 200-2000 to request your free legal consultation.