No fear, Cavalier: Lethal Wrecker changes its name


A Cavalier Wrecker truck undergoes repairs at the former Lethal Wrecker headquarters on Avon Street.

Sheryl Crow famously sang, "A change'll do you good." Has Lethal Wrecker taken her words to heart? One month after one of its massive rollback wreckers lost two of its six wheels and touched off an interstate-closing accident in North Carolina, Lethal Wrecker has a new name– and a new owner.

"Cavalier Wrecker!" answers a chirpy voice at the former Lethal Wrecker headquarters on Avon Street Extended. A reporter asking for Lethal owner George Morris on Monday, July 23, got this surprising news from the receptionist: "He doesn't work here anymore. He sold the company."

According to records filed earlier this month with the State Corporation Commission, Morris didn't have to look far to find a buyer. His mother, Carrie Carter, has taken the reins from her son. Carter did not return the Hook's calls for comment about the purchase and name change, but a recent trip out to the former Lethal headquarters reveals the transfer has already taken place. A light blue tow-truck bearing the Cavalier name and logo pulled out of the lot as a reporter watched, and inside the lot, a mechanic repaired a second tow truck labeled Cavalier. Lethal signs are nowhere in sight.

The sale marks a 180-degree turnaround for Morris, who in June issued a curse-laden promise to a Hook reporter inquiring about Cavalier and the accident in North Carolina. "You always want to worry about what the f*** I'm doing," he shouted, threatening a lawsuit. "I've been here since 1998; Lethal Wrecker is not going anywhere." 

As reported in the June 28 edition of the Hook ["Wheels of misfortune: Far from home, Lethal wrecks again"], on June 6 a Lethal driver named Harry "Scott" Fox was returning from a trip to North Carolina where he'd delivered two cars to a dealership. 

While he was driving on I-85 near Durham, an axle head snapped, sending the two left rear wheels of the truck soaring across the median to slam into the drivers' side window of an 18-wheeler traveling in the opposite direction. Struck directly by the nearly 400-pound wheels, the big rig overturned, spilled barrels of the explosive chemical benzyl chloride onto the road, and forced Hazmat crews to close the interstate for hours. The driver of that truck was critically injured and is now undergoing rehabilitation for his injuries in Baltimore. 

Fox was cleared of any wrongdoing in the accident by state police and the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates serious accidents, particularly those involving big rigs. No charges have been filed against Lethal or Morris, and no civil suit has been filed relating to the accident. Exactly one month to the day after it happened, however, Lethal quietly disappeared and Cavalier Wrecker was created.

If the combination of serious accident and name change for Lethal sounds familiar, it should. In January 2006, a Lethal Wrecker driver slammed into a Honda Accord on Route 250 near Keswick, nearly killing the Accord's driver, who was hospitalized for months with shattered bones and a torn aorta. Last summer, that driver, teacher, and Little League coach Peter Weatherly filed a $20 million suit against Lethal, Morris, and Lethal driver Floyd Dean, alleging negligence. In August 2006– soon after that suit was filed– Lethal was in the process of becoming "After Five Towing," or so the receptionist at Lethal said at the time.  "That's us," she said cheerfully. "We're changing our name in a couple of weeks."

Morris nixed that name change soon after, but not before again threatening a reporter with a lawsuit (and denying that Weatherly's suit even existed). Weatherly eventually settled with Lethal's insurance carrier for an undisclosed sum that his friends will only describe as a "fraction" of his original demand.

Weatherly's suit wasn't Lethal's only legal headache. After years of drivers complaining of being overcharged and intimidated, the City of Charlottesville terminated its official relationship with Lethal in 2005 and sued on behalf of towees, with the City eventually winning compensation for overpayment by 21 drivers the following year.

With "Lethal" now out of the picture, the question remains: will Cavalier develop a better reputation? That may depend on whether the word "Cavalier" is intended as a noun or an adjective.


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