Near miss for Hunter Berry in South Carolina

The world of touring musicians always looks a bit glamorous from the audience side of the stage, but when you get to know some of the artists who do it for a living, it becomes clear that it is a difficult life as well. The amount of travel they endure is taxing, not to mention the risks associated with being on the road so much.

That reality hit home in a big way last night for Hunter Berry, completely unassociated with his regular travel as fiddler with Rhonda Vincent & The Rage.

He was involved in a serious accident on Interstate 26 in South Carolina that caused tremendous damage to his SUV, but left him fit as a fiddle.

When we caught up with Hunter a little while ago to get more details, he was in an ebullient mood.

“Today is a good day, John,” was the first thing out of his mouth.

Berry was almost halfway home from Myrtle Beach last night, in Spartanburg, SC, when a truck eased into his lane, forcing his vehicle into the median and across into the oncoming traffic lanes. But he says that angels held the car on the road and saved his life in what could have been a deadly accident.

Let’s let him tell the story…

“I had been in Myrtle Beach visiting my sister. Last night, as she was going in to work graveyard, I decided to head on home. 

As I was getting near Spartanburg, this trucker fell asleep, or was just about falling asleep. I was in the left hand lane passing him, and about half way through he started coming over. There wasn’t any road rage or anything, and I don’t think he meant to do it.

I had cruise set on 80, and was singing along with There Is A God by Lee Ann Womack. That version has duet harmony, so I was singing the third part.

When he came over, I hit the median, and briefly put my foot on the brake. But once I was in the median I lost control. So I just focused on trying to keep the car stable. It ran through and over the cable guard rail, and busted the windshield. I ended up in the opposite lane, and would have been facing oncoming traffic if there had been any at that time of night.”

Berry said that his front end was bashed in, but he was able to get back into the proper lane and wait for a tow truck. The truck that forced him into the median just kept right on going. The tow truck driver took him to a hotel for the night.

When we spoke, he was on his way home in a rental car.

“Don’t you know I’m watching every other vehicle on the road today! And I’m doing 70 instead of 80.

I’m really surprised I didn’t flip the car. It’s a Nissan Armada SUV. I guess I’m just lucky that the wheels didn’t get turned so that it flipped.

The amazing thing is, I didn’t get a single scrape or bruise. The air bags didn’t even go off!”

People who know Hunter realize that he is more than just an exceptional fiddler and a natural entertainer. He is a man of faith, full of life and good humor, but he drifted between tears and joy while we spoke, recognizing just how close he had come to the end.

“It was an ordeal to go through – I was really shaken up. But it’s an opportunity to remember to take every moment in life and cherish it, and not take anything for granted.

I’ve been smiling and crying all day long. A buddy of mine told me on the phone this morning that God has something left for me to do yet. I’ll never stop being thankful for surviving this.”

Hunter will get home this evening, only to head back out this weekend for shows with the band. Rhonda has a concert on Friday night at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Shelby, NC, drive-in style. Then on Saturday it’s right back to Myrtle Beach for the Ocean Lakes Campground Bluegrass Weekend.

Whew… Drive carefully everybody!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.