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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Colleagues Mourn AZ Tow Truck Driver Killed Friday

Here's the story from The Arizona Republic:
by Jim Walsh - Aug. 5, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Jesse S. Gault of Gilbert died doing something he loved: helping other people. Jean Bunch was a nurse who devoted her career to helping children.

Gault, 44, a Navy veteran and longtime tow-truck driver, and Bunch, 56, a nurse at Phoenix Children's Hospital, died Friday in a crash on the Red Mountain Freeway in Mesa.

Gault had just finished changing Bunch's tire at about 10 a.m. when a truck driver, Albert J. Lorona, 31, of Yuma, plowed into the back of Gault's tow truck in the emergency lane. The force of the crash pushed the tow truck forward, running over Gault and Bunch as it slammed into Bunch's sport-utility vehicle, according to Sgt. Harold Sanders, a state Department of Public Safety spokesman.

Sanders said police have been unable to interview Lorona because of his condition and may never know exactly why he struck the back of Gault's tow truck in the westbound lanes near Gilbert Road because of short-term memory loss, a frequent problem for trauma victims.

After the tow truck hit the victims and the SUV, it veered across three lanes of traffic and hit the cable median barriers, preventing the truck from hitting the eastbound lanes.

Gault and Bunch were pronounced dead at the scene.

Tow-truck drivers are planning to memorialize Gault with a procession of tow trucks through the southeast Valley on Thursday night. Gault's casket will be loaded aboard a tow truck and taken to a funeral home for services, said Bryan Vivian, Gault's boss at Thompson's Auto Repair and Towing in Mesa.

"A perfect tow driver has to be willing to help. It was definitely in Jesse's blood," Vivian said. "I've had a couple of callers who called in to say how pleasant he was in providing service to them."

Bunch started as a clinical emergency-department nurse. She was reassigned in February to help the hospital move to computerized patient-treatment records.

Gault was a 20-year Navy veteran and his ashes will be spread at sea by the Navy as a tribute, Vivian said. Gault was the father of four children.

"That's what he loved in life. He loved his kids and he loved his work," Vivian said. "We were happy to get him. We will definitely miss him."

A memorial fund for Gault has been established at Wells Fargo Bank. Gault's viewing is at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Falconer Funeral Home, 251 W. Juniper Ave., Gilbert. Services are at 5 p.m. Thursday at the same location, with the procession to follow.

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