Months ago, when the price of gas was predicted to skyrocket to $5 a gallon, Gary Stephens started riding a scooter to his workplace in West Ashley and to run various errands.
Unlike some riders, the 57-year-old was fully licensed. He had a car and had planned to buy a new one. But driving a vehicle that could take him 100 miles on a gallon of gas just made sense.
“He said he had safety concerns sometimes about people not paying attention,” said Charleston attorney David Aylor, a family member. “But he’s an old-school guy. He grew up riding motorcycles, so he kept riding.”
Stephens was fatally struck around 6:20 p.m. Tuesday as he rode his scooter to Aylor’s house in downtown Charleston, where he had planned to eat dinner. He also had been looking forward to visiting his two grandchildren, one of whom was born just weeks ago.
The driver of the heavy-duty pickup that ran over Stephens at King and Line streets, 37-year-old Juan Francisco, was arrested on charges of failure to yield the right of way, having no South Carolina driver’s license and operating an unregistered vehicle.
His boss, bricklayer Luis Alberto Ramos of Goose Creek, was cited for allowing Francisco to drive, having an uninsured vehicle and failing to surrender a suspended tag.
In an interview Wednesday, Ramos said Francisco had a driver’s license from his native country of El Salvador and papers saying he could work in the United States. Ramos also said he thought that Francisco had a local driver’s license, but that it was in his wallet that was stolen recently.
While helping Ramos pour a concrete driveway Tuesday on Maple Street, Francisco left to get bottles of drinking water when the crash occurred, Ramos said.
“When he’s working with others, more or less he rides with the guys,” Ramos said. “Sometimes he needs to go places and he uses my truck.
“He was just going to the store three-quarters of a mile away.”
Stephens had completed errands on James Island and was traveling north on King Street when Francisco’s truck turned in front of his scooter, police said.
The truck hit Stephens, then ran over him, police said. He suffered injuries to his head, abdomen and legs, according to reports. He was not wearing a helmet, police said.
Stephens had spent his life rooting for the South Carolina Gamecocks and working in the retail industry. Most recently, the Georgia State University graduate used his scooter to commute from his West Ashley home to JC Penney at Citadel Mall.
“He was a hard-working family man,” Aylor said. “But he had (Tuesday) off and was on the way over to see his grandson.”
Aylor, whose 7-year-old son was Stephens’ grandson, was grilling at his home in Lowndes Point, where Stephens was headed to “catch up,” Aylor said.
Aylor added that Stephens took precautions on the roads, describing him as an experienced rider of full-size motorcycles.
“It was still light out and in the middle of the main thoroughfare,” Aylor said. “It just shows that it’s never safe.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
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