BERKELEY CO., S.C. (WCBD) – The Estate of William Ellis Jr., a tow truck driver killed in a July 1 accident on the Don Holt Bridge, filed a lawsuit on Thursday against parties involved in the accident.
On July 1, while operating his vehicle on the Don Holt Bridge, Peter Katzburg pulled over, as his vehicle became disabled. William Ellis activated his tow truck warning lights and pulled over to provide assistance, as did Charleston County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mike Costanzo.
Ellis was parked behind Katzburg, and Costanzo was parked behind Ellis.
The suit alleges that while the men were attempting to assist Katzburg, Dale Phillips II, of Tennessee, “slammed his [Ford F-350] into the rear of the Sheriff’s Dodge Charger, pushing it into the deputy and [Ellis], seriously injuring both men and causing Ellis to fall over the short concrete wall on the right-most edge of the bridge.”
The fall was fatal, and Ellis’ body was recovered the next day. Costanzo suffered serious injuries and is undergoing therapy at a specialty center in Atlanta.
Katzburg, Phillips, and the SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) are all named as defendants in the suit.
The suit claims that Katzburg “was negligent in failing to exercise due care.”
It goes on to claim that Phillips “was negligent, negligent per se, grossly negligent and reckless in failing to exercise due care, violating the SC Motor Vehicle Act, failing to keep a proper lookout, driving distracted, following too closely, [failing] to comply with 56-5-1538(G) requiring significant reduction in speed and lane change to the lane not adjacent of the emergency vehicle, and driving too fast for conditions.”
Finally, it claims that the SCDOT “was negligent and grossly negligent by failing to engineer a forgiving quality to the shoulder of the roadway, failing to engineer signage to warn approaching traffic of stopped cars on the crest of the bridge, failing to engineer a side wall tall enough or with railings to prevent inadvertent or disabled pedestrians falling over the side, and failing to engineer a fence or net to allow forgiveness to the inevitable and foreseeable circumstances of pedestrians who are forced over the short concrete side wall.”
In summary, the negligent actions on the parts of all defendants “proximately caused the injury and death of [Ellis],” according to the suit.
The Estate is seeking actual damages, general damages, and punitive damages. Ellis’ children will “take in equal shares of his Estate assets.”