WAGENER, Sc. (WJBF) – The family of the Wagener-Salley school teacher killed by a falling utility pole speaks out for the first time.
“Her name means ‘young girl’ and she kept that youth with her,” said Donovan Julian, the victim’s father. “And that sparkle…it touched everybody.”
30-year-old Juenelle Robinson was on her lunch break when she was struck on Main Street in Wagener last Wednesday.
A surveillance video captures the moments just before Robinson was hit by the pole. The family’s attorney says this tragedy could have been avoided if utility poles in the area had been properly maintained.
“A chain is only as strong as the weakest link,” said Justin Bamberg, the family’s attorney. “And if I have a pole that happens to be in good condition, but I let someone else who owns another pole that rotted tie to my pole…that is equally my fault.”
Bamberg says evidence photos taken show severe rotting inside the poles – some so severe that they are hollow.
A video shows a conversation that Bamberg had with Wagener Mayor Mike Miller about the age of the poles.
“How do you recognize this pole?” asked Bamberg.
“It has a soft drink bottle cap nailed near the base,” said Mayor Miller.
Mayor Miller tells Bamberg that those bottle caps came from his grandfather’s store.
He says he remembers going around town nailing the caps into poles as a young boy.
“I was probably eight or nine years old,” said Mayor Miller.
Bamberg tells us these utility poles could be more than 60 years old.
State Senator Brad Hutto says a system needs to be in place to ensure routine inspections and proper follow-through.
“Somebody needs to monitor these companies and make sure they do what’s right,” said Senator Hutto. “I know they probably had good intentions. They even put on the website that they know they had to do it…but they hadn’t done it.”
He tells us he will ensure this gets addressed when they are back in session in January.
As for Robinson’s parents…they say one of their last family gatherings will remain a fond memory.
“It was good to just have everybody there with them laughing and joking and being loud,” said Robinson’s father. “And us just loving up on each other as a family.”
They say that, through it all, they plan to keep Juenelle’s memory alive.
“Her light will be missed,” said Robinson’s father. “But we will always feel her warmth. That’s the kind of effect she had.”