Paramedic Al Gunter was on his way to Aiken on Tuesday to volunteer with Aiken Rescue when he was involved in a single-vehicle crash that claimed his life, officials said. Albert “Al” Gunter, 36, of Kansas Way in Aiken, was traveling west on Highway 78 shortly after 3 p.m. when the Dodge Ram pickup he was driving veered off the right-hand side of the road and struck several trees, said Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton. The vehicle rolled onto its side and burst into flames, but the cause of the crash and his death are still under investigation, official said.
Gunter was known to have some medical issues that may have contributed to the crash, but the autopsy should help answer remaining questions, Carlton said.
Officials don’t know what forced the vehicle to leave the roadway, and there were no skid marks that show he tried to brake. “That is why we believe something medical may have contributed to the crash,” he said. Gunter was unrestrained.
Traffic near the crash site was backed up temporarily while the S.C. Highway Patrol and the Aiken County Coroner’s Office investigated the incident. Gunter’s pickup truck was off the roadway, but crews investigating the wreck were walking in the westbound lane. A co-worker from Williston was behind Gunter when the vehicle ran off the roadway.
The news of the fatal crash came as a shock to many in the community who either worked with the Aiken resident or called him a friend. Gunter worked at Aiken County EMS before taking a full-time position with the Williston Rescue Squad. He had continued to volunteer with Aiken Rescue and teach classes at Aiken Technical College, said Aiken EMS Coordinator Phil Clarke.
“He will be sorely missed,” said Russell Stillinger, a one-time coworker at Aiken County EMS and friend of Gunter’s. “It is a shock to everyone,” he said. “Al was very dedicated to his job and family.”
Both Clarke and Stillinger said Gunter loved to take care of people and help out where he could. Aiken Public Safety Lt. David Turno said Gunter volunteered with Aiken’s youth fire camp for more than a decade. “He was a very easygoing guy who was always willing to help,” he said. “We could always count on him.”
Many emergency services personnel working in the area have received their training from the 36-year-old. Clarke said Gunter worked with the County for several years before he took a job in Williston. “He served as training officer and worked at putting together our training for employees,” he said.
Gunter had volunteered at Montmorenci’s Fire and Rescue as well. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Toxicology is pending, but Carlton said there is nothing that leads officials to believe alcohol was a factor in the wreck. An autopsy is scheduled in Newberry today.