A South Carolina high school and family are mourning the loss of a social studies teacher killed after a utility pole fell on her as she walked during her lunch break.
Augusta University Medical Center pronounced Jeunelle Robinson, 31, dead on Aug. 23, hours after the tragic accident.
Robinson was struck after a tractor-trailer hit utility lines, reportedly pulling what amounted to eight “defective” utility poles from the ground, according to a news release from a firm representing the family, Bamberg Legal.
Robinson’s family is asking for $130 million for financial compensation and to invest in a commitment to toward infrastructure and an annual scholarship in Robinson’s name.
Immediately after the accident, Wagener-Salley High School, where Robinson worked, was placed on a soft lockdown, according to its website.
“This tragedy is devastating to all of us as Ms. Robinson was in her second year teaching social studies at Wagener-Salley. Over the past year, she became friends with numerous colleagues and developed meaningful relationships with many of our students,” the school administration said in a statement to the community. “Genuine and sweet to everyone she encountered, her time here at our school and on this earth feels much too short,” the school, which canceled school activities following the incident, continued.
Students were devastated to learn their teacher had died, and counselors were placed on call to support all on campus. In her memory, the school set up a special time for prayer the next day at 7:45 a.m. at the school.
South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Brittany Glover said a 2014 Peterbilt tractor-trailer traveling north on S.C. Highway 113 struck “low hanging powerlines” near the Pickens Street intersection on Main Street at Pickens Street in Wagener.
According to Glover, Robinson was walking south on S.C. 113 when she was fatally struck by a falling pole. Reports say she tried to get out of its way but was unsuccessful. Results from her autopsy are still pending.
Robinson’s family has hired attorney Justin Bamberg, who said measures could have been taken to prevent the young woman’s death. He pointed out that the falling utility pole was 60 years old.
The family is asking for a $10 million annual scholarship trust in Robinson’s name, $100 million for her estate, and a $20 million investment in power infrastructure from utility companies in the towns of Salley and Wagener.
“This absolutely could have been prevented if people had done their job. The only reason why this happened was because a lot of people didn’t do their job. Period,” the lawyer said, according to the Post and Courier.
Dominion Energy explained that after the truck smashed into several utility poles and knocked out several energized lines, approximately 25 of their customers were left without energy.
“[We] extend our deepest condolences to the family of Jeunelle Robinson. Because the investigation regarding this accident is ongoing, it is too soon to provide any related details,” Dominion Energy said in a statement.
However, Bamberg said the company was well aware of its decaying poles.
“Dominion Energy has a project in the works called the Wagener Connection; it’s all public on their website,” Bamberg said at a press conference. “It is a project fixing and improving electrical infrastructure in Wagener. Dominion publicly acknowledged the equipment life span is 60 years and said [the poles in Wagener] needed to be replaced.”