Karen Alvarez had just passed Clemson United Methodist Church on Highway 123, delivering mail along its route, when a Dodge Charger slammed into the back of her U.S. Postal Service truck.
The truck crossed the roadway into oncoming traffic, rolled over the guardrail and came to rest on the shoulder. Alvarez was upside down, suspended by his seat belt and partially outside the truck, when help arrived.
It was 3:03 p.m. on July 21, 2021. The single mother of three suffered fractures to her skull, spine, pelvis, ribs and collarbone.
Fred Davis, a Clemson University football player, was later charged with reckless driving, a misdemeanor that carries a 30-day jail sentence and/or a $200 fine.
Clemson police said he was traveling at 110mph, more than double the speed limit, braked and hit the postal vehicle at 70mph.
Davis has requested a jury trial, which has yet to be scheduled.
What was suspected at the time, but not discussed publicly until last week when a lawsuit was filed, was the allegation that Davis and teammate Malcolm Greene had run on the freeway through the town of Clemson.
“Conduct of the defendants on January 1. February 21, 2021, was abnormally dangerous, was inherently dangerous, not a routine activity, and which created a foreseeable and very significant risk of physical harm even when all actors exercised reasonable care said Alvarez’s lawsuit.
Lawyers for Davis and Greene have yet to respond to the lawsuit.
Clemson Police Chief Jorge Campos said Monday that people had criticized his department for what appears to be a mild charge of serious injury.
He does not deny this, but says state law is to blame. None of the laws mentioned in the civil suit can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court.
The only way to know they were running would be for them to say they were, Campos said. The law specifically says that two drivers were trying to outdo each other.
“It’s like you’re going to Atlanta and three cars pass you. Are they running or traveling in groups,” Campos said.
Civil court has less stringent requirements for a guilty verdict.
The lawsuit says that in addition to racing, the defendants were speeding, overtaking dangerously and weaving through traffic. Campos said Davis lost control of the Charger before hitting Alvarez. It looked like she was trying to get out of her way.
She has no memory of the actual accident. Campos, but the investigation included witnesses who saw the car before and after as well as church surveillance footage.
Campos said the Clemson City Attorney and the district attorney’s office agreed that the reckless driving charge was appropriate.
The real problem, he said, is state law.
There are two reckless driving charges, the misdemeanor Davis faces and criminal reckless driving resulting in death or serious disfigurement such as loss of a limb.
Campos advocated for the law to be improved to include serious bodily injury, as many states have done. It was proposed by Rep. Jerry Carter of Pickens County, but did not leave the committee.
“These egregious and aggressive acts of conduct that result in serious injury to others must be appropriately sanctioned. is taken away from them,” Campos said in a press release when Davis was arrested.
He often said that the person who caused such an accident is free to continue with his life.
Davis played the Clemson-Boston College game on Saturday and nine of 13 games in 2021.
Alvarez, after his hospitalization, spent time in rehab and will have permanent injuries, according to the lawsuit. His father came from their hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia to help him afterward.
Margaret Thompson, a retired Pickens County sheriff’s deputy who led a fundraising effort for Alvarez, said Monday the community came together and raised more than $30,000.
“That’s exactly what we do,” she said. “It really bothered me what happened to him.”
The Seneca Journal also helped with the effort, contributing money and keeping the story in the public eye, Thompson said.
“I didn’t expect it,” the Journal said, quoting Alvarez. “I wanted to put thank you notes in the mailboxes. People are great here.
Alvarez has recovered enough to return to work at the Clemson Post Office.