GRAY COURT, S.C. (WSPA) – More than a year after two construction workers were hit by a woman driving under the influence on I-385, their families said they are now getting their first look at justice.
On Thursday, the driver, Pamela Tackett was sentenced to 15 years behind bars after she was found guilty of felony DUI with death.
Howell was seriously injured in the crash, while his co-worker Zach Ivey later died in the hospital.
Yvonne Howell, J.C.’s mother, was in the courtroom while the verdict was read.
“We all held hands waiting for it to be read out, and it was of course very emotional,” she told 7-News Friday.
Howell and Ivey were fixing a fence in the median near Exit 19 when Tackett’s vehicle swerved, plowing into one of their work vehicles and ultimately striking them both.
Tackett was reportedly high on prescription drugs and had marijuana in her system at the time, with a young child in the back seat.
During court proceedings, Howell said J.C. was overwhelmed during the sentencing.
“There was an outcome at the end that made us hopeful for change, and for us as a family and especially him as an individual, for him to heal from,” said Yvonne Howell.
While it’s the start of a new chapter for the family, Howell said her fight to keep road construction workers safe is far from over.
“I sent emails and letters to my local representatives,” she said.
She maintained she’s fighting for stricter penalties on those who fail to slow down in work zones and wind up hurting someone.
“We’ve got to slow down and we’ve got to let those who work those zones go home at the end of the day,” Howell said.
It’s very important and we have to be more accountable as licensed drivers to do that.”Yvonne Howell added that she also wants people to realize that taking prescription drugs before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle can impair the driver.
The SCDOT is echoed that message Friday, and said that this week alone they’ve had two workers hit by vehicles within their work zones.
“With the passage of the road funding bill in 2017 by the legislature, the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) has more than tripled our construction program. As a result there is an increasing number work zones across the state. Safety is SCDOT’s number one priority. Work zone safety and traffic control are established to protect both the workers as well as the motoring public. Unfortunately, just this week we have had two instances where there was a vehicle- worker collision within our work zones. We ask the motoring public to slow down as they enter our work zones and use extreme caution. Under no circumstance should anyone be using electronic devices or be under the influence while traveling in any work zone. At the end of the day, everyone deserves to go home to their families.” – Leland Colvin, Deputy Secretary for Engineering at SCDOT.