An $11 million settlement has been reached between a trucking company and the family of a South Carolina truck driver “who burned to death last year after colliding with a gasoline tanker that was blocking a rural highway in the dark.” But what happened exactly? How did the tragic accident occur?
The accident itself occurred in the early morning of August 19 in Orangeburg County. The truck driver, 48-year-old Kenneth Avis, was driving his 18-wheeler. Upon driving over a hill, he saw the gasoline tanker blocking the highway and slammed on his brakes. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough time to stop and collided with the tanker at an estimated 25 mph. Because the gas tanker was filled to the brim with nearly 8,800 gallons of pure gasoline, the collision sparked an explosion and engulfed both the tanker and the 18-wheeler in flames.
In response to the accident, Avis’ widow filed a lawsuit against the trucking company responsible for the gas tanker that was blocking the road. The lawsuit against the trucking company, identified as Eagle Transport Corp. in the lawsuit, alleged “the tanker’s driver, David Gullikson of Hephzibah, Georgia, was high on drugs and wasn’t properly trained. He had stopped in his lane and was attempting to back up onto an intersecting road, across Avis’ path.”
Uninjured in the explosion, Gullikson was “charged last month with reckless homicide and remains in jail.” According to the lawsuit, Gullikson “tested positive after the accident for amphetamine and methamphetamine,” and his arrest warrant accused him of “operating the vehicle with reckless disregard for the safety of others.”
Regardless of that fact that Gullikson has been charged, Avis’ family still lost a husband and father in flames that were so hot that the tanker actually melted and the road had to be repaved, according to attorney Cheryl Perkins.
Despite agreeing to the sizable settlement, the Rocky Mount-based Eagle Transport has yet to admit any fault in the deadly accident, despite claims from officials that Gullikson could have turned his truck around in a nearby parking lot instead of toying around in the middle of the road in the pitch black of night.
As for how the settlement funds will be split up, well, “Avis’ estate will receive $7.2 million, including $2.4 million to be paid to future descendants over several decades. The remaining $3.8 million covers attorney fees and court costs.”