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North Carolina Court of Appeals rules employer and insurance company must pay in fatal crash involving Hickory truck driver

The North Carolina Court of Appeals said the death of a truck driver who was killed in a wreck in July 2017 on Coxes Creek Mountain in northern McDowell County was work-related and that his family should be compensated.

On July 18, 2017, Toney A. Frye, 55, of Hickory was driving a dump truck loaded with a load of asphalt for his employer, Hamrock, LLC.

While driving south on Coxes Creek Mountain on NC 226 north of Marion, his truck veered left of center and began rolling sideways.

As it fell, the dump truck driven by Frye hit an oncoming yellow Honda sports car heading north on NC 226.

Frye and a 15-year-old girl from Morganton, a passenger in the sports car, were pronounced dead at the scene.

The 43-year-old driver of the car was airlifted by MAMA helicopter to Mission Trauma Center in Asheville with serious injuries, according to previous reports.

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On November 8, 2021, the North Carolina Industrial Commission determined that Frye’s death was compensable under workers’ compensation law.

The commission entered into an award of 500 weeks of death benefits, from the date of Frye’s death, to his children and close relatives James Frye, Anthony Frye and April Frye.

The commission also ordered Hamrock, LLC and Carolina Mutual Insurance Co. to pay Frye’s burial and funeral expenses, not to exceed $10,000, as well as “all medical bills the deceased incurred as a result of his death”.

Hamrock, LLC and Carolina Mutual Insurance Co. appealed this decision. Their attorneys argued that Frye had died of a heart attack before the sinking and that was not compensable.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals disagreed with this assertion.

“In fact, there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the conclusion that the loss of control of the truck precipitated the deceased’s heart attack,” the state Court of Appeals ruling reads. “In his deposition, Dr (Brent) Hall testified that a ‘stressful event’ such as losing control of a speeding truck ‘could predispose someone to a heart attack.’ Additionally, North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Justin Sanders, who oversaw the accident investigation, testified in his deposition that, based on his measurements and analysis of tire prints made by the truck deceased prior to the accident, it was believed that The deceased was “driving the vehicle” and “applying the brake(s)” on the dump truck prior to the collision. Indeed, Cavalier Sanders further testified that it was “obvious that (the deceased) was trying to control (the truck) and keep it on the road”.

The state Court of Appeals found that the NC Industrial Commission made the correct decision in this case. “For the foregoing reasons, the opinion and award of the full Commission are confirmed,” reads the court’s decision.