Bystander's family files suit involving fatal police pursuit

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

  
   The family of a Roan Mountain woman killed during a high-speed police pursuit on Highway 19E has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the second vehicle's driver and a North Carolina county sheriff.
   Filed in Carter County Circuit Court by attorney David Crockett, the suit names Richard D. Hughes of Roan Mountain, Edward Guinn, sheriff of Avery County, N.C., and Avery County as defendants.
   The suit's plaintiffs are Carolyn Davis, administratrix of the estate of Meloney S. Bowers, and James R. Bowers, the victim's husband and the couple's three children.
   Bowers died on Oct. 31, 2001, when the car she was driving was struck by Hughes' vehicle on Highway 19E while he was being pursued by Avery County authorities. Hughes was charged with vehicular homicide by the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) in the incident.
   The THP report read that Hughes had fled from Elk Park, N.C., and was being pursued by the Avery County Sheriff's Department, including a vehicle driven by Sheriff Guinn and another officer.
   The lawsuit reads that Sheriff Guinn and another officer had observed Hughes drink an alcoholic beverage in the parking lot of an Elk Park convenience store.
   When Hughes entered his vehicle, Guinn activated the emergency lights and siren of his patrol vehicle. Hughes allegedly fled the scene in his vehicle.
   The pursuit took Avery County officers into Carter County where pursuit speeds reached 110 miles per hour, according to the lawsuit.
   Approximately three-fourths of one mile into Tennessee, the suit reads that Hughes lost control of his vehicle, crossed into both oncoming lanes of Highway 19E and crashed into the vehicle driven by Meloney Bowers.
   The crash destroyed Bowers' vehicle and sent it careening into a rock bank on the edge of the highway.
   Bowers was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center by Wings where she was later pronounced dead of her injuries.
   The suit alleges negligence on behalf of Hughes was the direct cause of Bowers' death.
   The suit also alleges Sheriff Guinn was negligent and reckless in his conduct. The pursuit of Hughes was a major contributing factor to the fatal collision that resulted in the death of Bowers, according to the complaint.
   The suit alleges Guinn was negligent in not having established rules concerning high-speed pursuits and in not abandoning the pursuit of Hughes when "he saw or should have seen ... that his continued pursuit would endanger innocent motorists and make a collision imminent".
   Douglas L. Hall, the attorney for Avery County, said he was unaware of the lawsuit and had not been served with the complaint. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.
   The lawsuit seeks $2 million from all three defendants for the injuries, loss of income and wrongful death of Bowers. The suit also seeks $500,000 in punitive damages from Hughes and Guinn.
   James Bowers is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages from the three defendants.
   He is also suing the defendants on behalf of the Bowers' three children for $500,000 each for loss of paternal companionship, support, pain and suffering and emotion and financial support of their mother. Bystander's family files suit
   involving fatal police pursuit
By Thomas Wilson
   STAR STAFF
   twilson@starhq.com
   Subhead: Avery Co. sheriff named as defendant in multimillion dollar suit
  
   The family of a Roan Mountain woman killed during a high-speed police pursuit on Highway 19E has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the second vehicle's driver and a North Carolina county sheriff.
   Filed in Carter County Circuit Court by attorney David Crockett, the suit names Richard D. Hughes of Roan Mountain, Edward Guinn, sheriff of Avery County, N.C., and Avery County as defendants.
   The suit's plaintiffs are Carolyn Davis, administratrix of the estate of Meloney S. Bowers, and James R. Bowers, the victim's husband and the couple's three children.
   Bowers died on Oct. 31, 2001, when the car she was driving was struck by Hughes' vehicle on Highway 19E while he was being pursued by Avery County authorities. Hughes was charged with vehicular homicide by the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) in the incident.
   The THP report read that Hughes had fled from Elk Park, N.C., and was being pursued by the Avery County Sheriff's Department, including a vehicle driven by Sheriff Guinn and another officer.
   The lawsuit reads that Sheriff Guinn and another officer had observed Hughes drink an alcoholic beverage in the parking lot of an Elk Park convenience store.
   When Hughes entered his vehicle, Guinn activated the emergency lights and siren of his patrol vehicle. Hughes allegedly fled the scene in his vehicle.
   The pursuit took Avery County officers into Carter County where pursuit speeds reached 110 miles per hour, according to the lawsuit.
   Approximately three-fourths of one mile into Tennessee, the suit reads that Hughes lost control of his vehicle, crossed into both oncoming lanes of Highway 19E and crashed into the vehicle driven by Meloney Bowers.
   The crash destroyed Bowers' vehicle and sent it careening into a rock bank on the edge of the highway.
   Bowers was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center by Wings where she was later pronounced dead of her injuries.
   The suit alleges negligence on behalf of Hughes was the direct cause of Bowers' death.
   The suit also alleges Sheriff Guinn was negligent and reckless in his conduct. The pursuit of Hughes was a major contributing factor to the fatal collision that resulted in the death of Bowers, according to the complaint.
   The suit alleges Guinn was negligent in not having established rules concerning high-speed pursuits and in not abandoning the pursuit of Hughes when "he saw or should have seen ... that his continued pursuit would endanger innocent motorists and make a collision imminent".
   Douglas L. Hall, the attorney for Avery County, said he was unaware of the lawsuit and had not been served with the complaint. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.
   The lawsuit seeks $2 million from all three defendants for the injuries, loss of income and wrongful death of Bowers. The suit also seeks $500,000 in punitive damages from Hughes and Guinn.
   James Bowers is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages from the three defendants.
   He is also suing the defendants on behalf of the Bowers' three children for $500,000 each for loss of paternal companionship, support, pain and suffering and emotion and financial support of their mother.