A memorial with flowers and a cross were set up over the weekend at the site of a fatal accident Friday evening in Beaufort.(Photo: Jonathan Dyer, The Beaufort Gazette)
A fire engine that was stolen and badly damaged in a crash Friday will not hinder the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department's ability to respond to emergencies, according to the department.
"Despite the loss of that fire engine, the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department has enough fire trucks and support vehicles to continue to provide exceptional fire protection services to all our areas," Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron said Monday.
The truck's replacement value is $663,000, and the department is discussing compensation with its insurance company, the department said. The engine may be declared a total loss, and the department is considering replacing it as part of a fleet reorganization.
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The nude man who stole a Port Royal fire truck and drove it down Ribaut Road, striking and killing a pedestrian, had fled Naval Hospital Beaufort earlier that afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said Monday.
Kalvin Hunt, 26, of Sumter was taken to the hospital by a Beaufort County Veterans Affairs officer on Friday, said hospital public affairs officer Regena Kowitz. She would not say why he was admitted, citing patient-privacy laws.
Hunt ran away when the VA officer took him outside for a moment, Kowitz said.
The VA officer immediately notified hospital security, which contacted the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, Kowitz said.
Attempts Monday to reach the county's Veterans Affairs Office were unsuccessful.
Hunt escaped to Laurel Hill apartments, where Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department firefighters were answering a medical call. Hunt climbed inside the fire truck parked at the apartment complex and drove away, careening down Ribaut Road toward Beaufort.
It is unclear at what point Hunt became naked.
Hunt hit six cars as he headed north and veered into oncoming traffic. He struck and killed 28-year-old Justin Nicholas Miller before crashing into woods near the Dollar General store, authorities have said.
The crash pinned Hunt inside and badly damaged the engine. Hunt fought off a paramedic and two police officers trying to free him from the wreckage. A deputy subdued Hunt with a Taser so officers could cuff his hands and legs, according to a police report.
Hunt was treated at Beaufort Memorial Hospital and released to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, according to Beaufort hospital spokeswoman Courtney McDermott.
Officials at MUSC declined Monday to release information about Hunt.
Upon his release, charges will be filed against him by multiple agencies. The S.C. Highway Patrol will file any charges brought in connection with the pedestrian's death, while Port Royal police will likely charge him with theft of the fire truck, authorities have said. Beaufort police will also charge him with two counts of assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest, Beaufort Deputy Police Chief Dale McDorman has said.
Questions about Hunt's military status were referred to LCDR Barbara Mertz of Navy Personnel Command, who said information would be released as soon as it became available.
Meanwhile, emergency responders countywide are examining their protocol and safety measures, fire officials say.
Policies for securing fire trucks are set by individual fire departments in South Carolina, according to S.C. Fire Academy spokeswoman Lesia Kudelka.
Because the focus is on saving lives, it is uncommon to leave a firefighter standing guard over an idling truck during an emergency situation, said Dan Byrne, spokesman for the Burton Fire District.
He added that the engines are complex to operate.
"To drive and maneuver a fire truck requires some type of knowledge or experience," he said. "That was my first thought when I heard about this."
Capt. John Robinson of the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department declined to comment on emergency-response protocols, citing the Highway Patrol's ongoing investigation.
"We really want justice to be done in this case," he said.
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.