After travelling all over the world and serving his country in three wars, David Stroupe, 86 of Leicester, died Friday while still being treated for injuries he received after being struck by an Asheville Transit Authority bus. The bus collided with Stroupe in the Westgate parking lot outside of Earth Fare.
An eyewitness, Karess Walker, of Asheville told authorities that Stroupe "was just coming out of the corner and he just stopped in the middle of the road." From her view, Walker felt that Stroupe "must have assumed the bus was going to stop. But it kept on going, and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, please don't hit the man.' I thought he was going to stop right before it got to the man. But he just ran him right over."
Stroupe suffered a head injury and a foot injury in the incident. When the bus finally stopped, it landed on Stroupe's foot. EMS transported Stroupe to Memorial Mission for emergency treatment.
The bus driver, 69-year-old Tolley Arnold Tate, also of Leicester, received a ticket for failure to reduce speed. Tate works for First Transit of Asheville who operates the City's bus system. Tate told the Asheville Citizen Times that he had been driving for the transit company about six years. He claimed the incident was unavoidable. From this author's view, the incident was anything but "unavoidable."
Tate admitted that he was not looking where he was going just before the collision. Bus drivers have a duty, just like every other driver, to keep a proper lookout and to see what is there to be seen. They also have a duty to maintain a safe speed. That rule applies in parking lots as well as on the streets and highways around town. Beyond these common rules of the road, bus drivers also receive special training and have special knowledge about operating a heavy vehicle on the road. This training and knowledge is needed in order to obtain a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). These drivers are considered "professional" drivers, and as a result they are held to a higher standard of care than other non-professional drivers on the road. This means that they are trained to not be distracted, they are trained to break earlier than passenger vehicles, they are taught to keep a greater distance between them and other vehicles, and they are taught how important it is for a commercial driver, who is driving a heavy vehicle than can not stop on a dime or turn as quickly as a passenger vehicle, to keep their eyes on the road in front of them.
If Tate had been paying proper attention to where his bus was going, this incident would not have occurred, and Stroupe would still be with us. First Transit placed Tate on administrative leave following the incident. This is not the first time an Asheville bus driver has made the news for violating safety rules.
Given the rules that Tate violated, he and First Transit of Asheville are clearly liable for Stroupe's injuries, and if Stroupe's death is causally related to the incident, then Tate and First Transit are also responsible for his death. An autopsy will determine the exact cause of Stroupe's death. Doctors indicated that Stroupe began having trouble breathing and deteriorated quickly while rehabilitating at Care Partners. If there is a causal link between Stroupe's injuries and his death, then Tate could be facing criminal charges for manslaughter.
In the civil arena, Tate, First Transit and their insurance company, are responsible for paying for all of Stroupe's medical bills and the pain and suffering he endured leading up to his death. Stroupe's widow, depending on the cause of death, may also have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim and recover for the loss of Stroupe's companionship, his comfort, his guidance and several other elements of damages under the North Carolina Wrongful Death Act. In North Carolina, there is a two year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims.
At Davis Law Group, serious injury and wrongful death attorney Brian Davis counsels clients and their families with regard to their legal rights and options following serious accidents in and around western North Carolina.