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Friday, January 16, 2009

Update On MI Tow Boss Who Was Critically-Injured on Wednesday

Here's today's story from the Battle Creek Enquirer:
MARSHALL — A tow company owner and president of the Marshall school board remained in critical condition Thursday after he was hit Wednesday on I-69 in Calhoun County.

Victor Potter, 55, owner of Bud's Towing in Marshall and president since 2006 of the Board of Education of Marshall Public Schools, was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo after he was hit by a car about 12:10 p.m. on I-69 near Garfield Road in Convis Township.

"We are competitors in business but also friends," said Danny Ure, owner of Professional Towing Co. in Battle Creek. "This just scares me."

Potter was injured while preparing to tow a vehicle damaged in an earlier accident, according to Capt. Matt Saxton of the Calhoun County Sheriff Department.

"He was just finishing hooking up the vehicle," Saxton said. "A northbound vehicle lost control and did a one-eighty and slid backwards and sideswiped the other car and hit Mr. Potter."

Saxton said Potter was kneeling next to the front of the damaged car which was on the left side of the passing lane near the median. A sheriff's department patrol car was parked behind the damaged car and both the patrol car and the wrecker had emergency lights turned on.

Saxton said the Saturn VUE which hit Potter was driven by an 83-year-old Flushing man who was not injured. He was driving the car from a dealership in Battle Creek to one in Flint. His name was not released while the investigation continues.

Saxton said the Saturn was in the right lane and traveling about 50 to 55 miles per hour when it slid out of control on slippery pavement. Snow was falling at the time.

The northbound lanes were closed about 40 minutes, Saxton said. Potter suffered several broken bones and possible internal injuries. The accident reconstruction is being done by Detective Steve Hinkley.

"I worry about these guys on the highway all the time," said Ure, owner of his towing company for nine years. "We put lights on the trucks and wear lime green clothes but people won't move over and it scares you to death especially when the roads are slick. It's so darn dangerous."

Ure said weather and speed contribute to accidents but "driver courtesy is the biggest factor. They don't give you any room. You think they will move over and they won't."

Tow truck operators are frequently injured on the job, said William Byers of Byers Wrecker Service in Rochester and president of the 160-member Michigan Towing Association.

"It happens very frequently," he said Thursday afternoon. "We had three just in the last 24 hours and that is just what I have heard about.

"People just don't give us the respect we deserve. They just don't move over."

Byers said federal regulations require wrecker drivers to wear reflective vests or clothing and operators are experimenting with emergency lights that are not so distracting to other motorists.

"It keeps people from gawking because you go where you look," he said.

Saxton said patrol officers know about the dangers in traffic.

Three weeks ago, a deputy stopped to check a vehicle which had slid off I-69 near Tekonsha, Saxton said. As the deputy was checking the car, a pick-up slid out of control and struck the patrol car, destroying it.

Saxton said he was helping with traffic at an accident last week and saw a tractor-trailer approaching and began to jackknife while slowing.

"I put it into gear and I was moving to the median to get out of the way," he said. "It's nerve-wracking to be on the freeway in these types of conditions."

"People need to slow down and give as wide a berth as possible," he said. "Typically you see the emergency lights well in advance, so don't wait to slow down until you are on top of it. Slow down well in advance."

Trace Christenson can be reached at 966-0685 or tchrist@battlecr.gannett.com.

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