Charles “Chuck” Frissell was being the gentlemen he always was in the accident that claimed his life.
Frissell, a 72-year-old retired Air Force colonel and chaplain, was opening the car door for his wife outside the El Pollo Loco restaurant on Shallowford Road on a rainy night on Oct. 13, 2007. He lost his footing and stumbled onto a grassy embankment adjoining the curb, then tumbled backward down a steep incline and off an 8-foot retaining wall. He landed head-first on the concrete of the parking lot below. Frissell died from his injuries 13 days later.
Last week, nearly two years after the accident, the owners of the now-closed property erected a 50-foot long chain link fence at the site of the fall as part of a settlement with Frissell’s family, which received $850,000 from Fiesta Brands in a wrongful death claim.
“This by no means makes up for the loss of Mr. Frissell, who was a true leader and devoted to the service of others through his faith, but it does ease some of the hardships in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy,” said the family’s attorney, Mark Alexander of the Gainesville law firm of Stewart, Melvin & Frost. “The family also feels some closure in knowing that the conditions that led to this accident have been corrected.”
The Gainesville El Pollo Loco location went out of business earlier this year, but Alexander said the restaurant’s closing was not connected to the wrongful death complaint. The Frissell family was able to resolve the complaint with Fiesta Brands through negotiations without filing a lawsuit, Alexander said.
Efforts to reach attorneys for Fiesta Brands were unsuccessful Wednesday.
During the ongoing legal negotiations and prior to the settlement, no warning signs or other indicators of a hazard were posted at the steep drop-off just to the right of the restaurant’s parking lot. The restaurant was open for more than a year after Frissell’s accident.
Frissell was well-known in the Gainesville community as a volunteer at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where he served as a chaplain and was a member of the Medical Center Auxiliary. In December 2007, the hospital’s Love Light tree was dedicated to Frissell’s memory.
Those who worked alongside him described Frissell as an energetic, enthusiastic volunteer with a heart for service. Besides his volunteer work at the hospital, he was active at First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville. Frissell served 25 years in the Air Force before he and his wife moved to Gainesville to be closer to their children and grandchild.
Frissell and his wife dined at the restaurant just prior to the fatal fall.
The restaurant building is now boarded-up and vacant. It is not known when or if another business will open there, but Alexander said he’s hopeful the fence will remain in place to prevent another tragedy.
“It’s just making it a safer place,” Alexander said.