Seven years after a Covington man was killed in a head-on collision with a fire truck, a wrongful death suit that stemmed from the crash has been resolved. The driver of the emergency vehicle, Lucas McCulloch, and the Eagle Rock Volunteer fire department will pay $162,500, court records show.
The crash occurred May 26, 2008, Memorial Day, just north of Eagle Rock.
Russell D. Meadows, 44, and his girlfriend, Judi Clark Martin, were on U.S. 220 in Meadows’ Ford Ranger pickup when a pumper truck going in the opposite direction crossed the centerline and hit them head-on. Meadows and Martin died instantly, according to lawsuits.
A Virginia State Police probe determined that the large amount of water the fire truck was carrying — about 1,000 gallons — caused it to shift and put most of the vehicle’s weight on the front left tire, making it impossible to steer. Investigators said McCulloch wasn’t speeding, but that was just one point of many which the couple’s survivors contested in court.
Two $7 million lawsuits, filed in Botetourt County on behalf of Meadows’ and Martin’s families, claimed that McCulloch was traveling well above the 55 mph speed limit, that he didn’t brake as he rounded a curve, and that if the weight of the water was a factor, McCulloch should have been aware of that tendency and could have prevented the wreck.
Their suits further cited a conviction McCulloch received in 2002, also while driving a Botetourt County emergency vehicle. Although he initially was charged with reckless driving for going 84 mph in a 55 mph zone, his offense was reduced by a judge to operating defective equipment after he complied with numerous requirements and paid a $100 fine, prosecutors have said.
A compromise settlement in the Meadows suit was finally reached Sept. 17, paying the estate $162,500 but freeing McCulloch and the fire department of liability. Substitute Judge Michael Irvine, who heard the case after Botetourt County Circuit Judge Malfourd “Bo” Trumbo recused himself, signed the final order earlier this month.
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