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Teacher Sues Trucking Firm For Bridge Wreck In South County

A year after a daring rescue made headlines around the world, a local family not far from Dana Point alleges the company negligently hired a known drug addict as a driver.

One year after a car carrying South County teacher, Kelli Groves, and her two daughters dangled perilously from a Santa Barbara County bridge, her family has sued the trucking company over the deadly accident.

On Jan. 12, 2012, Groves of San Juan Capistrano was driving her then-10-year-old daughter, Sage, and 10-week-old girl, Mylo, to Mission San Luis Obispo when the 2001 BMW she had borrowed was clipped from behind by a big rig owned by R&R Auto Wrecking of Arroyo Grande.

The truck went barreling over the side of a bridge just south of Buellton, sending driver Charles Allison Jr. to his death. Groves’ car somehow managed to jam into the railing, but was left hanging off the bridge.

Their rescue is a story of one miracle after another that attracted worldwide attention after a battalion of Navy Seabees happened on the scene with the perfect, heavy-duty forklift needed to stabilize the car, allowing firefighters to extricate the girls and their mom.

The California Highway Patrol later ruled Allison was at fault after the coroner determined he had drugs in his system.

In a lawsuit filed last week in San Luis Obispo County, lawyers for the Groves family want to hold the trucking company responsible for negligence in maintaining and operating the truck and hiring Allison as a driver.

R&R Auto Wrecking couldn't be reached for comment.

That Allison was driving a tractor-trailer truck while high on methamphetamine was “willful, deliberate, intentional, reckless, despicable,” the lawsuit states.

“Sadly, the driver of the big rig involved in this collision had a long history of drug and illegal substance abuse,” said Wylie Aitken, one of the Santa Ana-based lawyers handling the case for the Groves.

Aitken said Allison had several previous run-ins with the law for drug possession and driving under the influence.

“It is shocking that a trucking company would even hire and allow someone suffering from such addiction problems to drive a vehicle capable of so much harm to others,” Aitken said. 

The suit does not name a specific dollar amount sought for damages but does indicate Groves and her daughters suffered severe injuries and said Groves was unable to return to her teaching job at Del Obispo Elementary. 

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