February 7, 2007
AIKEN CTY, S.C.---36-year-old Al Gunter died yesterday afternoon when his truck went off the road. He is the latest person to be killed on Aiken County's roads. These first couple of months have proven to be dangerous for some behind the wheel.
Gunter's accident happened on Highway 78, eight miles east of Aiken, near the intersection of Fire Tower Road.
Aiken County coroner Tim Carlton tells News 12 that Gunter was not wearing his seatbelt when his 1998 Dodge pickup veered off the road, hit several trees, rolled onto its side, and then caught fire.
Gunter was a former Aiken EMT trainer, but most recently worked as a Williston EMT.
It's a sad day all over Aiken and Williston. Al Gunter worked in both areas and was very dedicated to the community.
But now, another family, in just the first two months of the new year, is having to say goodbye to their loved one.
"We walk around with this mentality that it's never going to happen to us, and this really hits hard to home," said Lisa Hintz. Hintz worked beside Gunter as a paramedic, saving lives for many years...but last night, it was tragically different.
"He was leaving Williston Rescue to go to Aiken Rescue to put a truck in service because Aiken County was so busy," Hintz said.
Going from one job to another wasn't unusual for Al. But when his truck veered off the road on Highway 78, it was an emergency call no one expected.
"Aiken Rescue actually ran the call, and the crew called when they recognized his truck," Hintz said.
"We lost a friend and a co-worker, a family has lost a father and a husband, and a father has lost a son, and a mother has lost a son," said Clay Fulmer.
Fulmer worked with Al at Williston Rescue. He describes Al as competitive, someone always striving for excellence.
"We used to joke and call him Super Medic," he said.
Al is the eighth person killed this year in a traffic accident in Aiken County. In one accident, a brother and sister were killed on I-20.
There is a disturbing trend in the majority of those accidents.
In a county that leads South Carolina in the number of traffic fatalities...
"We're concerned with the fact that seven out of the eight fatalities were unrestrained, not wearing seatbelts," said Aiken County coroner Tim Carlton. "That's your first line of defense, is your seatbelts."
"Al's going to be irreplaceable," Fulmer said.
"A lot of us are going to feel a major void in our lives from here on out," Hintz said.
Aiken County leads local counties with the highest number of deadly wrecks already this year.
Richmond County has had three, and Columbia County, zero.
The coroner says overall, the numbers are coming down from the past few years in Aiken County, but they'd definitely like to see them go lower.