Files wrongful death action claiming gross negligence against the City of Isle of Palms and Isle of Palms resident
Today, the family of Phillip “Phil” Andrew Wallace, 51, a Mt. Pleasant man and beloved Lowcountry chef, filed a civil suit seeking answers and accountability for his untimely death nearly five months ago on the Isle of Palms Connector. No criminal charges were brought in the incident that claimed Wallace’s life.
Based on Motley Rice’s investigation, the suit alleges the City of Isle of Palms and Robert L. Abel, a resident and member of the Isle of Palms Code Board of Appeals, caused Phil’s death as a result of their breach of duty, negligent acts and omissions.
On Oct. 13, 2016, at approximately 5:13 a.m., and fewer than three miles from home, Phil was killed on the Isle of Palms Connector after being struck by a vehicle driven by Mr. Abel.
Prior to this incident, Phil’s moped (his transportation of choice as he was raised in the U.K.) collided with Isle of Palms Police Officer Amanda Postell’s cruiser, which was parked on the shoulder of the Isle of Palms Connector without its lights on. Parked in front of her vehicle was Isle of Palms Police Officer Dylan Reynold’s cruiser, also without its lights on. Both were parked just over the peak of the Connector, headed northbound toward Mt. Pleasant, and were scheduled to get off duty at 5:30 a.m.
Upon impact with Officer Postell’s vehicle, Phil was thrown from his moped onto the road where he lay injured but conscious. The complaint alleges that the officers did not protect him as is their duty, allowing Mr. Abel’s vehicle to fatally hit him.
The complaint states that as a Police Officer, Officer Postell had a heightened duty to create a safe road condition and to safeguard an accident scene. Mr. Abel is named for his alleged violation of his duty and reasonable care in operating a motor vehicle.
The Isle of Palms Connector does not have any overhead lights and by this time on the morning of Oct. 13, 2016, the moon had already set.
“No one should have to endure the pain that his widow, Naomi, and Phil’s family and friends have suffered these past few months. We are committed to finding answers that they haven’t been able to obtain on their own,” said Motley Rice attorney Kevin Dean. “Through this suit and investigation, we hope to hold those responsible for Phil’s death accountable, and to bring light to this incident and how this can be prevented from happening again. We also believe that Mr. Abel has been let off the hook for his role in this incident and that The City of Isle of Palms has demonstrated reckless disregard for this family in their time of anguish.”
“Despite initially being told incorrect information about the incident, with Motley Rice's help I have been able to learn more about what happened that dark morning on the bridge. I believe the driver who ran over Phil was reckless and he was let go without further investigation, and that the IOP officers failed in their obligation to serve and to protect. Because of this, I am left without my soulmate and my son is left without his stepdad,” said Phil’s wife of 12 years, Naomi Wallace. “I want to learn the truth about why the love of my life was so needlessly and catastrophically killed.”
The complaint alleges the following fatal sequence of events from that morning:
Phil arrived at the Sea Biscuit Café on the Isle of Palms around 5 a.m. for the 5:30 a.m. breakfast shift. Once in the restaurant, he realized he was not scheduled for this shift and leaves to return home.
From a traffic camera video recording, Phil is seen, with his headlight on, turning his moped left onto the Isle of Palms Connector. Immediately behind him was a large box truck. Phil continued heading northbound, hugging the right side of the lane. The truck stayed behind him just until he got to the peak of the bridge and then passed him. It is believed Phil moved to just along the fog line to allow the truck to pass.
Phil’s moped hit the rear of Officer Postell’s police cruiser. He was thrown from the moped across the northbound lane and came to a rest in the median emergency lane with his head and shoulders lying on the double yellow line. He sustained injuries, but was alive and responsive to Officer Reynolds. Officer Postell and Reynolds turned on their cruisers’ blue lights and Officer Reynolds ordered Officer Postell to move her cruiser into the road to protect his body, but she failed to do so.
Meanwhile, Mr. Abel turned onto the Isle of Palms Connector going northbound. Upon reaching the crest of the bridge and seeing the blue lights, Mr. Abel continued in the northbound lane. Despite Officer Reynolds attempting to wave him over and seeing the blue lights, Mr. Abel failed to stop, yield or slow down. He ran over the moped, continued driving and then hit and killed Phil who was laying in the road.
Read the full complaint.