A tow truck driver was ticketed overnight after plowing into an SUV that was being towed by another tow truck, causing the SUV to dislodge and hit a third tow truck on the Bishop Ford Freeway.
About 2:15 a.m., two tow trucks that were towing repossessed vehicles were traveling side by side on a ramp from southbound Interstate 94 to 103rd Street, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Anthony Hoop said.
Roderick Figures, driving a third tow truck, apparently didn't see them and crashed into a Dodge Durango that was being towed, Hoop said. The SUV became dislodged and hit the tow truck next to it.
Figures, 39, of Hazel Crest, suffered back pain and was taken to Roseland Community Hospital in good condition. A 37-year-old woman who was inside the tow truck by the SUV also complained of pain and was taken to Roseland in good condition, Hoop said.
Figures was ticketed with failure to reduced speed to avoid an accident, Hoop said.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The Legislature is considering a bill that would include tow- truck drivers among those protected by the so-called "Move Over" law.
The Roadside Safety Assistance Act, sponsored by Sen. John Nelson, R-Glendale, would amend state law to include tow- truck drivers and highway maintenance operators, as well as the motorists they're assisting, on the list of those that drivers are supposed to move left to avoid while on highways, according to a news release issued by AAA Arizona.
Current law provides this protection to emergency vehicle workers, such as police and fire personnel. Prior to its adoption in 2005, eight Arizona Department of Public Safety officers were killed while performing roadside duties, the release said.
The maximum fine for violating the law is $250, according to the online version of the Arizona Revised Statutes.
Arizona is one of 47 states that have "Move Over" laws. Of those, 38 also protect roadside assistance personnel, the release said.
The prospect of adding tow- truck drivers to the law's protection is a great idea, said Jim Mooney, owner of Tucson-based Frontier Towing.
Mooney said most people don't consider tow trucks and broken-down vehicles as dangers that would necessitate a driver to change lanes to provide a buffer, he said.
"If you see a vehicle on the side of the road, you don't perceive it as a danger because 99.8 percent of people haven't experienced that," Mooney said.
Enforcing the law, though, won't be so easy, Mooney said.
"It would be a post-incident help," he said. "It will be too hard to enforce. It's like speeding. Tons of people do it."
Mooney said most people who actually comply with the current law don't do so because the're trying to be safe, but because they don't want to get ticketed.
The bill unanimously passed a Senate committee Monday and now goes to the full Senate.
Contact reporter Brian J. Pedersen at 573-4224 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Four words -- "no more than six" -- are sparking a surprisingly heated fight as the city of Bakersfield gears up to change its tow truck rules.
The "six" refers to the half-dozen tow companies city police call out to accidents, crime scenes and DUI checkpoints.
But some 15 additional companies are qualified to respond to Bakersfield Police Department calls -- and they want on the list.
The drama has summoned local luminaries including George Martin and Trice Harvey along with a Los Angeles attorney who helped break up a tow ring in that city in the 1990s. All are lobbying city officials on behalf of different towing interests ahead of a vote scheduled for next week's city council meeting.
A chunk of change is at stake. Financial information provided to the city by the six tow-truck firms it contracts with show each takes in roughly $600,000 to $700,000 a year from the city call-outs. The figures include only towing and storage fees. Any additional revenue from unclaimed vehicles sold or parted out don't have to be reported to the city.
The totals also don't include a recent spurt in activity from grants for DUI checkpoints, where each car impounded in a DUI charge is stored for at least 30 days.
The city's system is one of habit, and City Manager Alan Tandy believes it is outdated.
It's been around since at least 1977, when Bakersfield's population was about 82,000. At that time, language in the municipal code specified the police department would use a rotating list of "no more than six" tow-truck companies.
"The BPD is functioning under very old practices," Tandy said. "There is not a clear, open, visible process by which you can get on this list."
He wants the city to adopt a roster of 21 companies contracted with the California Highway Patrol that now work in metro Bakersfield for the CHP and the Kern County Sheriff's Department. The CHP roster includes the six on the city's list.
The tow list recently came to the attention of the city manager's office when a councilmember requested policy information after a firm tried to get on.
Tandy's office found that over the decades, the process of getting on the list has become something of a mythologized process. Sure, companies could apply, but applications were effectively shoved into a drawer. Some relied on advice from patrol officers. Tow firms believed they needed to lobby to get, and stay, on the list.
"I waited about seven years for my opportunity," said Randy Winkle, owner of Randy's Towing, whose years-long wait is typical.
Winkle was recently named president of one of two factions that have sprung up around the controversy. The Bakersfield Towing Coalition represents the city's six contracted firms. Trice Harvey, a former state Assemblyman and county supervisor, is lobbying on the group's behalf along with law firm LeBeau Thelen.
Winkle said the coalition has no problem with expanding the list, but added: "Let's just do it in a timely manner."
He worries that "if we dilute the water too much" -- especially if the DUI grants dry up -- he won't be able to pay his seven employees or the loans on his trucks and land. Winkle said he pays about $7,000 a month per truck for such things as loan payments, wages, gas, insurance and wear and tear.
"We'd be done," he said. "I'd close down tomorrow."
But Robert Ring of Los Angeles law firm Ring & Green points out "other tow companies manage to be in business in Bakersfield."
Ring represents the 15 or so tow firms in another new group, the Bakersfield Towing Association, who support the city manager's push to update policy. In the mid-'90s, Ring helped break up decades-old tow contracts in Los Angeles.
"It might be in the interest of the six tow companies to hold onto monopolies," Ring said, but it's not good public policy.
His companies are just as qualified as the current six and if the city accepts state money for the DUI checkpoints, he said, it should follow state rules by allowing qualified firms to tow.
Association member Ray Tavakoli, owner of Lewis Towing, was among a group who attended the Jan. 13 city council meeting and spoke during the open comment session.
Tavakoli told councilmembers opening the list would create "more jobs, better response time" and would be mutually beneficial for local businesses and the police department.
The issue came up recently after a councilmember asked for clarification of city policies after being contacted by a tow company trying to get on the list.
The company isn't a member of the association Ring represents. The city manager's office said Bakersfield attorney George Martin has been representing the firm, though Martin declined to comment for this story.
Whatever the firm might be pushing for, city officials want to completely revamp tow policy. Contracts would go through the finance office rather than BPD. Local firms on the CHP roster, which are backgrounded and inspected by the CHP, would be eligible. Like the CHP, there'd be open enrollment every year.
The proposal being sent to councilmembers next Wednesday would launch the new policy in July, when the annual CHP list comes out.
"Our point is that there should be a known public process for getting on and off the list," Tandy wrote in an e-mail, referring to adopting CHP procedures, "so that they can make business decisions on an open, understood basis rather than upon what they say a patrolman may have advised."
Here's his obituary from www.fredericksburg.com:
Forrest Davidson "Bubba" Matthews, 55, of Fredericksburg, formerly of Alexandria, died Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010, at Mary Washington Hospital.
Mr. Matthews was a self- employed tow truck driver.
He was preceded in death by his father, Grover L. Matthews.
Survivors include his son, David Matthews of Fredericksburg; his mother, Barbara Duncan of Alexandria; a sister, Sharon Cullop-Witherspoon and her husband,
Dr. Thomas Witherspoon, of Baton Rouge, La.; and two nephews.
A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, at Covenant Funeral Service, Fredericksburg Chapel, with the Rev. Willis A. Dempsey officiating. Interment will follow in Oak Hill Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Lupus Foundation of America Inc., Box 631047, Baltimore, Md. 21263-1047.
Online guest book is available at covenantfuneral
I originally posted the story on this back in October. Click here to read it.
Here's the update from www.myfoxhouston.com:
HOUSTON - A former Houston firefighter will not spend time in prison for violating his probation in the murder of a tow truck driver.
During a hearing Wednesday, a judge denied a motion to revoke Barry Crawford's probation.
Police say Crawford stopped making restitution payments and performing community service, both requirements of his probation for shooting and killing Steven Hardin in 1998.
Hardin's family says they are extremely disappointed his probation was not revoked.
According to the district attorney's office, Crawford will finish out his probation, which ends in June.
He must also pay back $15,000 he owes in restitution to the victim's families.
Now, that's inspiring! Here's a profile from www.fredricksburg.com of 75-year-old Billy Marrs, who owns Bill's Service Center in Spotsylvania County, Va.:
By Rob Hedelt
THEY don't make many like
Billy Marrs anymore.
The hard-working 75-year-old owner and operator of Bill's Service Center in Spotsylvania County has either been fixing cars or running wrecker calls for 50 years, all from two spots just a few hundred yards apart on State Route 3 at Five-Mile Fork.
From the day in 1960 when he opened a full-service Amoco station, Marrs has spent seven days a week repairing cars, fixing flats or towing damaged vehicles.
"Some nights, I'd be out two or three times before sunup," said Marrs. Since 1984 he's made Billy's Service Center exclusively a wrecker business, with son Bill lending a hand.
"It's the nature of the business, and I've loved every minute of it."
He didn't have much down time during the day either. Raising a small number of cattle and his own hay on a little spread off Old Plank Road, where he tinkers with a growing herd of vintage John Deere tractors, Marrs has never had to worry about idle time.
"It's what keeps you young," he said. "I'm not much for sitting around."
Marrs said he was worried about whether he'd be able to make it in the business when he started in 1960, hoping he'd have enough income to pay his part-time help.
"I sweated that first three months," he said. "We'd do anything customers wanted, from washing cars for 50 cents to doing repairs and pumping gas."
Life along State Route 3 was pretty different then.
"There wasn't that much traffic out here," he said. "Mornings and afternoons you'd see people going to work and coming home, but things were slow in the middle of the day."
And of the traffic he saw, "90 percent of it you knew the people, their families and where they lived."
His first wrecker cost him $800. He paid $74,000 for his latest one.
Marrs said one thing hasn't changed--his basic approach of taking calls only from people who want to be towed, and doing everything he can to help them through what's often a difficult time.
"I remember one woman in an accident who tore up her car pretty bad," said Marrs, noting that the woman was upset about the cost. "I told her they make new versions of that car every year, and that the dealer would be glad to sell her one. "But I reminded her that because nobody's making new versions of her, the most important thing was that she wasn't hurt."
Then there was the couple who had an accident at Four-Mile Fork, just after they'd bought that week's groceries.
Instead of leaving them with a week's worth of food to go bad, he simply transferred them and their groceries into his wrecker and drove them home.
"You basically treat people the way you'd want to be treated," he said. "That works out pretty well."
Though he still handles his share of calls, Marrs acknowledges that maneuvering the heavy slings and hooks a wrecker uses isn't as easy as it once was and has left him with some lingering back injuries.
"It helps that Bill works with me in the business and on the farm," said Marrs, also noting the help his daughter, Deborah Marrs Collins, gives him at home.
He said it's been tough to witness sadness, injuries and deaths he's seen on calls, including a wreck many years ago that took several lives on State Route 612.
His most difficult call: "The time a tractor trailer hauling vegetables ran off I-95 down a hillside near the Rappahannock River. We were down the hill loading watermelons, snap beans and more into boxes with a front-end loader" before using three wreckers to haul the truck back up.
The most frequent call in his early years: "People were always flooding those old engines. I'd just pull out my pocket knife, pry the choke open and start 'em up."
Marrs said he enjoyed the early years of running a service station. But when monthly rent shot up by thousands of dollars, it was time for him to find a different business.
"A full-time wrecker business has suited me just fine," said Marrs, who believes he may have the longest run in his trade in the Fredericksburg area. "I hope to keep doing it for a while to come."
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Did you know you can sign up and get a digital edition of Footnotes each month?
Click here to have it sent to your email inbox each month along with our new e-newsletter, TowBriefs!
Click on the pic to read it today!
A Mississauga man was killed while walking with his wife and their young son Sunday afternoon, police said.
The 54-year-old man, his wife and their four-year-old son were crossing Hurontario St. from the northeast corner of Queensway to the northwest corner when an eastbound tow truck driven by a 24-year-old man struck the man as it turned left onto Hurontario St. at about 4:30 p.m., Peel Regional Police Const. J.P. Valade said.
The woman and her son, who was believed to have been in a stroller, were very close to the tow truck, but were not injured, Valade said.
Despite a quick response by paramedics and the fact that the man was injured just down the street from the Trillium Health Centre, he died from his injuries, police said.
His name was not released at the request of his family.
While the investigation is still in its preliminary stages, Valade cautioned pedestrians to be wary while crossing roads.
"Whether or not you're crossing legally or illegally, as a pedestrian, the consequences of being involved in a collision are obviously not going to favour you," he said. "We have to remind pedestrians that the onus is heavily on them to ensure they are crossing safely."
Anyone who witnessed the collision or the events leading up to it is asked to contact police at 905-453-2121 ext. 3710 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477, peelcrimestoppers.ca or by texting PEEL and your tip to CRIMES.
The Wellton Fire Department received a belated Christmas gift, and it was just the sort of item they could use: physical fitness equipment.
"We're very happy to receive the donation," said David Rodriguez, fire investigator and spokesman. "We definitely need the equipment and it came at a good time."
Donated by Pete's Body Shop & Towing, the equipment includes a weight bench set, a set of weights and a StairMaster stepmill.
Wellton Fire Department has introduced a training program aimed to combat cardiovascular disease in firefighters, Rodriguez said. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of firefighter deaths, he added. It accounted for nearly 48 percent of firefighter deaths last year, with trauma coming in second at 31 percent.
Wellton firefighters must complete a minimum number of hours of aerobic exercise and pass a biannual physical fitness test consisting of running and strength training, Rodriguez noted. Wellton firefighters receive weekly hands-on training to test their physical stamina.
Training involves performing typical firefighting tasks, rescue operations and other emergency response situations under stressful conditions while wearing personal protective equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus.
It is rigorous training requiring the ability of tolerating increased respiratory workloads, said Rodriguez. Workouts include climbing stairs with all required gear, practice carrying victims, advancing hose lines and experiencing long periods of physical exertion without the benefit of a warm-up, rest or hydration, he stressed.
The Wellton Fire Department consists of 15 volunteer staff members who, although they do not receive a salary, are paid $20 per call, Rodriguez noted. They feel it is of great importance to maintain top physical conditioning to best serve the department and the public.
Pete's Body Shop & Towing, serving Wellton since 1980, is locally owned and operated. It currently does towing for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Yuma County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Border Patrol.
They are honored to help support the "dedicated" firefighters of Wellton, said shop spokesman Matt Jamison.
"The Wellton Fire Department is very thankful for the charitable donation they have given to the department," Rodriguez said. "The equipment will be put to great use."
Here's the story from the Times Union:
TROY -- A 35-year-old man shot in the head while trying to protect his family four months ago was injured so severely that he has not been able to talk to them since.Robert Guynup, who was a driver for Dawson's Towing, was the type of guy who'd cut his next-door neighbor's lawn to help out. He was shot at 4:30 a.m. Sept. 13 trying to get some noisy youths to quiet down across the street from his Madison Avenue home.
''Life, as our family knew it, will never be the same again,'' said Guynup's mother-in-law, Deborah Jackson of Troy. He remains in a semi-comatose state with slow and minimal brain activity.
"It seems that the future doesn't hold much promise for him or for his wife and three children,'' Jackson said Monday as her son-in-law was in surgery again at Albany Medical Center Hospital.
On the night of the incident, Guynup was on call for the tow company. He and his family could not get any sleep when a group of youths at the Griswold Heights Apartments became more boisterous, Jackson said.
Guynup called police several times. The group quickly dispersed each time, only to re-form after the police cruiser left.
Guynup tried to talk with the group, but was ignored.
''The group came closer and closer to his house, and he was afraid to leave his wife and kids if he was called out on a tow,'' Jackson said.
Just after 4 a.m., Guynup went out with a camera to take pictures of the group to show police. A shot rang out, and he fell to the ground.
''You get to feel that these sorts of things happen to other people,'' Jackson said. ''I never thought I'd get the call I got that night.''
Guynup has remained hospitalized in critical condition.
Ariel T. Myers, who was 18 at the time of the incident, was indicted in October on charges of attempted murder, felony assault and weapon possession. Myers, now 19, remains in Rensselaer County Jail without bail. The case is pending in county court.
Prosecutors have said they have eyewitnesses and a photograph allegedly linking Myers to the crime, but Myers has said he was not there.
''Bad things don't happen all the time there, but when they do they are bad like this,'' said City Council President Clem Campana. ''They have started just last week to have neighborhood meetings there on these issues and that will help.''
Campana said he also is looking into getting more Troy Housing Authority police, whose shifts end at 2 a.m., to cover the later hours.
Guynup's family and their friends have organized a couple of fundraisers, including an event Jan. 9 that raised $10,000, Jackson said.
''It was just great and many people showed up to help,'' Jackson said. ''A lot of people were unaware of how bad Bob is. Some people had thought he was better.''
Reach Gardinier at 454-5696 or email@example.com.
How to help
To help the Robert Guynup family, checks can be made payable to "Friends and Family of Robert Guynup" and dropped off at any M&T Bank branch.
Here's his obituary from the Southwest Times Record:
TULSA — Charles Edward Aich, 54, of Tulsa died Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010, in Tulsa. He was born Oct. 24, 1955, in Chandler, Okla. He was owner of City Wide Wrecker Service in Tulsa.
He is survived by his wife, Sandy; two sons, Rusty Aich and Rocky Pietrosky, both of Tulsa; his mother, Margaret Aich of Ozark; three sisters, Evelyn Long and Suellen Zapatka, both of Springfield, Mo., and Margaret Canady of Ozark; seven brothers, Leo, David and Ricky Aich, all of Muskogee, Okla., James and Joseph Aich, both of Ozark, Stephen Aich of Tulsa and John Aich of Sand Springs, Okla.; and several grandchildren.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Hundreds of plants from a semitrailer bound for Washington are ending up in Billings-area homes with the sales revenue going to help the needy.
On Jan. 4, the truck jackknifed and slid into the ditch near Big Timber. Hanser’s Automotive and Wrecker of Billings got the call to pull the truck out and tow it to Billings.
Owner Ralph Hanser had his employees move the plants inside during a bitter cold spell and water them while the insurance company completed its investigation. This morning two weeks after the accident, the insurer told Hanser to dump them in the landfill.
“Apparently, they were saying that because of the time that had elapsed,” he said. “Would you have wanted to take them to the landfill? They’re beautiful.”
So, Hanser offered to forgive his company’s bill of $3,000 to handle the cargo and got the insurance company’s per-mission to take possession of the plants and give them away.
Then he called the Montana Rescue Mission and offered to haul the plants to the MRM’s Bargain Center at 1233 24th St. W., so the nonprofit could sell them.
“Wouldn’t it be great if they could raise some money this way?” Hanser said.
Vern Turner, who manages the Bargain Center on 24th Street West, had his employees move furniture out in front of the store to make room for a steady stream of palms, scheffleras, ferns, dracaenas and yucca plants that originated in Florida.
One shopper, Margaret Converse, laughed as she watched the action.
“I feel like I’m in a forest,” Converse said, before grabbing a few plants for her home.
Plants also are being sold at the other two Bargain Centers at 1140 First Ave. N., and off of Wicks Lane and Main Street in Billings Heights.
“This will be a good time to help the ministry, when we’re struggling,” Turner said. “Actually, all the non-profits are struggling now.”
Coughing with bronchitis, Deanna Zerbe took a sick day Friday from teaching second grade at Lodge Grass Elemen-tary. She filled two grocery carts with 5-foot-tall ferns to decorate her classroom and use in science lessons.
“The students don’t have access to plants very much and we’re going to be studying plants,” Zerbe said.
The original cargo bound for a Home Depot in Washington was valued at $60,000, Hanser said.
MRM is selling the plants at 35 to 65 percent off that price which potentially could feed $39,000 to MRM.
When asked why MRM is selling at such a steep discount, Turner said MRM wanted to both help people and sell them quickly.
“We wanted to pass on the saving to our customers so they got blessed and we got blessed,” he said.
Contact Jan Falstad at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1306
ROSEVILLE -- Three men are dead after a wrong way crash on westbound Interstate 94 near 12 Mile Road on the Roseville and St. Clair Shores border in an attempt to steal men's body wash, said police.
Police said a Ford Fusion occupied by three men, all in their 50s, suspected of retail fraud from a CVS Pharmacy were involved in a chase with St. Clair Shores police just after midnight.Officers said the men were shoplifting bottles of Axe Body Wash for men from the store located at 11 Mile and Harper roads in St. Clair Shores."These individuals were observed stuffing some items down their pants," said St. Clair Shores Police Lt. Mike Walleman.
Police said they ended the chase before the men's vehicle entered the westbound lanes of I-94 at 11 Mile Road – going the wrong direction.The car traveled eastbound at about 90 mph before clipping a minivan with three people inside. The driver of that van suffered minor injuries.The car then ran head-on into a tow truck.The three men in the car died in the collision.Sean White was behind the wheel of that tow truck."Everything just happened so fast. I thought I was gone the way the car was coming. I thought I was a goner," White said.After spending the night in a hospital, White returned home. He is stiff and sore but has no serious injuries. He said he knows his tow truck saved him and probably saved other people who were on the freeway at the time."I'm just glad I was there to stop them from hurting anyone else behind me. I know that big truck can handle a lot," White said.The freeway was shut down for several hours Thursday night into Friday morning while police investigated.The Michigan State Police have taken over the investigation. MSP said they are having a hard time identifying the men because none of them had identification. They hope fingerprints will help them identify the men by Saturday.
Tow companies say motor club reimbursements often too low
Good for us, not for them
Between rising gas prices and insurance costs, many tow companies say they can't afford to take service calls from motor clubs like AAA.
While a local tow generally costs between $50 and $75 out of pocket, roadside assistance programs pay contractors far less to pick up stranded motorists. And one of the most popular services for consumers is the least popular among towing firms.
AAA is the lowest-paying club in the region and the nation, according to a survey from industry group towPartners. The AAA base rate for an average five-mile tow is about $28 in the Northeast, the survey said; the highest-paying club was Coach-Net with almost $52.
"As far as I'm concerned, AAA is no good," said John Harrington, a driver with A&D Express Towing in Queensbury.
A&D doesn't accept AAA calls because the rates don't cover the cost to start up his truck, Harrington said. A&D charges $65 for a tow; AAA used to pay the company a base rate of $21.
Two other Queensbury towing companies, Clark's Towing and Northway Towing, also stopped working with AAA and other motor clubs like Allstate and Geico because the overall rates were too low.
Northway Towing owner Philip Kent said he now sticks to dealership warranty work and police calls, which pay more than the clubs.
For Frank's Body Shop in Fort Edward, a AAA contractor, the club rates may be low, but the payments come on time and there is enough work to stay busy.
Owner and driver Charlie Campney said AAA pays him a $27 flat fee, plus mileage. That works for him, so long as the call isn't time-consuming.
Another AAA contractor, Bodies by Jay in South Glens Falls, works with multiple motor clubs.
Trish Cardinale, who handles administrative work the family business, said she hasn't had problems with any of the clubs, but knows that not everyone feels the same way.
"I have heard that a lot of people don't want to tow for AAA because it's low," she said of the rates. "But we do it based on volume."
According to AAA Northway spokesman Eric Stigberg, rates vary by contractor, as all sign independent agreements.
He said the local division has an average response time of 34.5 minutes and a large and growing network of contractors - 87, covering a 10-county area from Albany to Lake Placid, as well as a fleet of nine vehicles in Schenectady and Saratoga counties.
In addition to individual policies, auto brands that rely on AAA for roadside service include Audi, Buick, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer, Lexus, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Porsche, Saab, Saturn and Volkswagen.
Stigberg said AAA customers aren't charged out-of-pocket fees and they have access to a range of other products and services. He also noted that some insurance companies increase premiums based on roadside assistance claims.
While most tow companies agree that the roadside assistance services provided by clubs like AAA benefit the customer, they say those lower-paying calls can fall to the wayside during snowstorms.
According to towPartners, its members said they would not accept a call from a motor club they don't already work for unless the basic rate was, on average, more than $46.
Clark's Towing owner Bob Clark said he has picked up many stranded AAA customers during storms who had been waiting for hours because the designated contractor for that area is busy and other companies don't want to take the job.
Tom Brennan, Capital Region vice president for the Empire State Towing & Recovery Association, said he recommends AAA service to his mom, but his tow company in Cohoes can't afford to take AAA calls on a regular basis.
"They do have a good product for the consumer," he said of motor clubs. "But as an owner of a tow company, it is not a very good thing to do."
Here's the story from www.newsjournalonline.com:
PORT ORANGE -- They stood in the back of the chapel, many dressed for work.
They refused invitations to take seats among friends and family members of their fallen colleague, because they needed to be among the first out of the building when the service at Volusia Memorial Funeral Home ended around noon Saturday.
And when it was time, the 20 tow truck drivers climbed into their rigs, turned on their beacon lights and joined the funeral procession for Todd A. Holland, who died Dec. 17 from a stroke he suffered on the job.
Many of the drivers showed up despite not knowing Holland, said Tracy Hess, a co-worker at A&A Automotive & Wrecker Service in Port Orange, where Holland worked for 13 years.
That's not unusual, she said. "Whenever someone in the wrecker industry passes away, we try to show up with the trucks as a sign of respect."
Holland was highly regarded among the 14-employee company, said owner Ron Hess, Tracy's father and co-owner of the wrecker service. "I had to hire two people to take his place," he said.
Holland leaves behind a wife, Rebecca, and 9-year-old daughter, Alyssa.
At the service, Chaplain Mark Spivey of Hospice of Volusia/Flagler asked attendees to call out words describing Holland. Responses included "loving," "smiling," "strong," "unselfish," "stubborn" and "brave."
Tracy Hess said Holland's favorite activities included four-wheeling, building bonfires and hanging out on her boat on Disappearing Island on the weekends, forgetting about work.
She said his daughter Alyssa had been sharing stories non-stop about her dad since his death. "He called her his little helper," she said.
Rebecca Holland said later she was impressed by the drivers' show of support. "It was a wonderful tribute," she said.
One reason for the cameraderie is a shared understanding of the hazards of the job, Tracy Hess said. In addition to the dangers of working in traffic, strokes are common among truck drivers, she said.
They tend to eat poorly, and blood clots develop in their legs more frequently because of the long hours spent sitting behind the wheel, she said.
Recently, Nation Safe Drivers, a motor club out of Florida, has graciously donated a one-of-a-kind, custom tow truck to the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum (ITRHFM) Survivor Fund specifically to be used for a fundraiser for the fund. The truck is being raffled off to raise money as the Survivor Fund’s primary 2010 fundraiser. The drawing for the truck will be held at the AT Expo in Baltimore, Maryland on November 21, 2010.
“We are proud to accept this truck and look forward to working with Nation safe Drivers throughout 2010 to sell tickets and raise money for the Fund,” stated Jeffrey Godwin, Chairman for the ITRHFM Survivor Fund committee. “Their donation is a very generous one and we will be selling tickets throughout the year as a part of this terrific fundraiser.”
The truck is a 1947 Dodge pickup with a 454 big block Chevrolet engine. It has an automatic transmission and a B&M shifter. The truck utilizes a Edelbrock polished aluminum high rise intake and has dual upright stacks. Aluminum dish wheels and Mickey Thompson tires round out the package on this great truck which also sports assorted chrome engine accessories under the hood. Images of the truck can be found on the Survivor Fund website at www.thesurvivorfund.com.
“We are proud to support the Survivor Fund and the towing museum,” said John Moore, Program Manager for Nation Safe Drivers. “Our industry loses dozens of men and women in the line of service every year and in this small way we can help the efforts of the Survivor Fund to support the families left behind.”
Tickets will be available at several towing events around the country throughout the year and can also be purchased by visiting the Survivor Fund site, directly through the museum or from Nation Safe Drivers.
About Nation Safe DriversAbout ITRHFM Survivor Fund
Nation Safe Drivers is one of the largest suppliers of towing and roadside assistance, as well as additional supplemental insurance related products. Nation Safe Drivers offers "Niche" products to provide enhanced benefits to the customers of their clients, as well as creates additional revenue streams without extensive overhead costs or added staff. Nation Safe Drivers offers a variety of ancillary products such as Roadside Assistance, Motor Club, Gap Insurance, Window Etching, Tire and Wheel Protection, Travel Protection, Hospital Indemnity and much more.
The International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum launched the towing industry Survivor Fund. The Survivor Fund is the latest addition to the ITRHFM family and was established to help the families of the men and women that have make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of service. The Survivor Fund provides the families of these fallen towers with a uniform financial gift at the time of their loss. ITRHFM is a 501(c)(3) organization and accepts donations for its Survivor Fund as well as other programs and operations from individuals, corporations and groups.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
It's a new towing network created by a tower. Here's some info from the "About" page:
Hello Everyone and welcome to TOWSPACE.NET... My name is John Beauman Jr from Lockport,New York. I am the operations manager for Beauman`s Garage / Red`s Towing a business that was started by my grandfather and is currently run by my father. We run 10 trucks ranging from light to heavy duty for both towing and recovery services.
TOWSPACE.NET is built for the tower by a tower and is meant to be an all NEW place for the persons involved in every aspect of towing and recovery. With lots of great features I am sure you will grow to love and have fun with. The big thing is bring on your recovery videos!!!!!! Yes upload your videos right to the site and lets get the conversations going!!!!. I hope you all enjoy networking here on TOWSPACE.NET Jr
Tow truck drivers now need a towing license, ID badge and more insurance to do business in Palm Beach County.
County commissioners Tuesday beefed up the rules for towing operations, trying to head off consumer horror stories of damaged vehicles and automobiles virtually held hostage by inflated charges.
The new rules expand licensing requirements to all tow truck operators, beyond just those who work with police or remove illegally parked cars.
Tow truck drivers called to help with a flat tire or to retrieve a car that won't start will soon be required to wear an ID badge showing who they work for and that they are licensed by the county.
To get a license, tow truck drivers must pass a criminal and driving background check. The drivers will have to carry insurance to cover potential damage from towing. Licensed tow trucks should also have a decal showing they meet county standards.
The idea is to protect customers against unscrupulous tow truck operators, blamed for damaging vehicles and jacking up prices while leaving stranded drivers with little legal recourse.
"This is one of the little things county government works on to keep people safe," Commissioner Jeff Koons said.
Licensing fees for tow truck drivers will start at $300 and go up to $600 for those who handle "non-consent towing," which includes illegally parked cars. The county's rules also include maximum rates for vehicles towed for illegal parking.
Tow truck operator Cameron Bragg of West Palm Beach was among those opposed to the new regulations.
"It's going to drive up the costs of tows," Bragg said. "Not everybody can afford these extra fees."
Other longtime county tow truck operators hailed the new rules as a way to weed out operations that have been below the county's regulatory radar.
The county's towing truck advisory board, which includes towing company representatives, helped craft the new rules.
"Everything in here is what you would consider good business practices," advisory board member Herb Goldstein said.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.
INDIANAPOLIS - Police say 35-year old Mark Daily was outside his tow truck, helping a broken-down vehicle on the side of the highway when a van came along and ran over him. Police say that driver, 40-year old Ronald Stevens did not obey the move-over law. And they cited him for unsafe lane movement and following too close.
"Driving becomes so second nature to people that they don't give it the attention that it deserves," said Sgt. Dave Bursten of the Indiana State Police. "And just that moment lapse of attention to what you're doing can have catastrophic results. We're very, very fortunate that this did not end up being a multi-fatality crash."
The accident involved three other vehicles, including a military Humvee and two other people had minor injures. Everyone is expected to recover.
Elvis won't be singing "Jailhouse Rock" and Capt. Jack Sparrow won't be thrown in the brig.
During a court hearing Tuesday, prosecutors dropped misdemeanor battery charges against the two men, who, dressed in costumes of the King and the famous Hollywood Pirate, were arrested Halloween weekend during a disturbance outside a Cape Coral bar.
Mark Oefinger, 36, of Cape Coral, who was dressed as Captain Jack, and Brian Gibens, 31, dressed as Elvis, were accused of roughing up wrecker driver Alexander Arocha-Diaz, 34.
However, there was no evidence either man battered Arocha-Diaz outside The Dek Bar on Southeast 15th Avenue, said Oefinger's attorney, Aaron O'Brien.
Witnesses later came forward to say Oefinger and Gibens never touched Arocha-Diaz and the battery charges were dismissed, O'Brien said.
Both men said they were glad they won't be spending as much as a year in jail on the battery charges.
"I'm happy with the way it turned out," Oefinger said.
"I'm really happy, but the case should never have gone as far as it did," said Gibens.
Arocha-Diaz could not be reached for comment.
Arocha-Diaz, according to police reports, told officers Oefinger, who was dressed like a pirate, and Gibens, wearing Elvis clothing, pushed and held him to prevent him from towing a car in the parking lot of a church next to the bar.
Arocha-Diaz said he could see the men's faces and later identified them as the men who allegedly accosted him.
However, "nothing like that happened. We just stood there. We never touched him," Oefinger said.
He said he and Gibens came to the aid of the car's owner, who was from out of state.
"We saw that this car with an out-of-state tag and thought, 'this poor guy is going to have his car towed,'" Oefinger said.
He said he and Gibens tried to talk Arocha-Diaz out of towing the car.
"That's when the owner came out, got in his car, and left," Gibens said.
"The tow truck driver was ... really belligerent," Gibens said.Gibens said the wrecker driver then accused them of assaulting him.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Authorities on Tuesday identified a woman who apparently died when her Lexus plunged 550 feet off an embankment on Coal Bank Pass.
Antonetta Massey, 43, of Las Vegas, was reported missing Saturday morning by her husband, from whom she is separated and who lives in Denver, said Capt. Martin Petrik, with the Colorado State Patrol.
The accident likely occurred sometime between Friday and Sunday afternoon on Coal Bank Pass at mile marker 57.5, where there is a pull-off for drivers to view Twilight Peak, he said.
Troopers continue to investigate the cause of the accident.
Employees from a local towing company recovered the car's wreckage Tuesday from the bottom of the embankment.
Anyone who saw a 1995 dark gray Lexus sedan driving on the pass or parked at the Twilight Peak overlook between noon Friday and Saturday morning should call the Colorado State Patrol at 385-1675. Callers should ask for Capt. Martin Petrik, investigator Steve Nowlin or Trooper Jonathan Silver.
A Durango snowboarder noticed the crunched car about 4:10 p.m. Sunday while parked at the Twilight Peak overlook.
Two men have been arrested and charged with shooting a tow truck driver on Milwaukee's north side, Milwaukee police announced Monday.
Demetrius L. Hewlett, 22, and Justin P. Kraker, 22, were charged with shooting the driver, a 48-year-old West Allis man, Jan. 7 in the 2600 block of N. 36the St., according a police department news release.
According to the release, the victim was shot twice when he went to purchase a car, however his wounds were not life-threatening.
Copies of criminal complaints against Hewlett and Kraker were not available Monday.
According to the Milwaukee County Jail Web site Monday, Kraker was being held on a $35,000 cash bail with charges pending, however the site did not indicate if Hewlett was in custody.
Monday, January 11, 2010
GARRISON — More than 100 family and friends of beloved tow-truck operator John Marcinak gathered this morning at his Garrison Garage on Route 9, where he was gunned down one year ago today when he interrupted a burglary.
Marcinak, a 49-year-old married father of three, was a fixture in the Garrison community, where he grew up and was a long-time member of the Garrison Volunteer Fire Department. He could often been seen driving his flatbed truck through town with his three children, taking them to school or after-school functions.
When investigators with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office charged a Lake Peekskill teen in June with Marcinak's murder, it brought some sense of justice to his family and friends.
But as the gathering today inside the old stone garage showed, Marcinak's loss still weighs heavy on his community.
"John loved his community and would be amazed at the people here today," said Garrison VFD member Christopher Simone.
Marcinak's widow, Janet, attended with their three children, Julie 14, John 10, and Joey, 9.
"It's been a year but the community doesn't want to forget and that's good for the kids," she said.
Anthony Grigoroff, 18, of Morrissey Drive, Lake Peekskill has been held without bail since June at the Putnam County Sheriff's Office on felony charges of second-degree murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of attempted second-degree burglary. His case is pending in County Court.
On every tow Tony Thomas goes to he arrives with a memorial to his former co-worker on the rear windshield.
It says "In memory of Eddy McCreery."
"He was just a good guy all around good guy would do anything for you," said Thomas.
McCreery died in October when he was struck by a car while helping tow his daughter.
Police say the driver, Katrina Cornwell, had been drinking.
The accident is on a lot of minds this New Years Eve because of a service McCreery's employer provides.
Bailey's Wrecker Service offers free towing for intoxicated drivers.
Owner Randy Bailey says he started the free tows about six years ago.
"We see a lot of drunk driving accidents. We see innocent people killed everyday from people making poor choices of drinking and driving," said Bailey.
McCreery was a frequent participant in the service, which makes his death all the more personal this holiday season.
"This year our drivers heads are heavier than normal due to the loss of Eddy but we're hoping to save other people's lives through this tragedy," said Bailey.
Click here to read the original post about McCreery's death.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Tow truck driver popularity rises. Workers at Ace Garage in Wheeling said there biggest response call is drivers being locked out while warming their vehicle in these cold temps.
WHEELING -- Tow truck drivers in the Ohio Valley have been busy, but you don't have to be one of their clients.
To avoid a broken down car or dead battery, drivers and mechanics have some advice.
Make sure your antifreeze can withstand the coldest temperatures, at least 34 degrees below zero.
Workers also suggests looking on the dashboard of your car for your battery volt, also fill up your gas tank, and make sure your tire pressure is correct too.
Don Atkinson at Ace Garage, in Wheeling, told 7 News there most common calls are lock-outs.
"People are warming there car up and they accidentally lock themselves out. Or they have an automatic starter and their car locks after awhile. People just need to pay attention," said Atkinson.
Atkinson said to make sure you have a spare set of keys on hand.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Novi, Michigan – Hino Trucks engines rank highest in customer satisfaction for a second consecutive year according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Medium-Duty Truck Engine and Transmission Customer Satisfaction StudySM.
The study measures customer perceptions of 2007 model-year Class 5, 6 and 7 gasoline and diesel engines, and provides manufacturers with a comprehensive and objective measure of customer satisfaction with the products and related dealer service. Four factors are measured to determine overall engine satisfaction. In order of importance, they are: engine warranty; engine quality; engine performance; and cost of engine ownership.
CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) -- Oops, wrong number. Some New Year's Eve revelers in Carlsbad who had a little too much to drink got a surprise when they called a toll-free number
for a free tow home.
Instead of assistance, they got instructions to call a second toll-free number that offered pornographic conversation.
AAA Texas and New Mexico acknowledged the mistake and blamed it on a typographical error. Spokesman Dan Roman apologized to anyone who called the number and wasn't able to take advantage of the tow offer.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal denied Donald Montanez's request to overturn a ruling that he can be prosecuted despite the state's Stand Your Ground law.
The law, adopted in 2005, says people don't have to exhaust all avenues of retreat before using deadly force to defend themselves.
Montanez faces second-degree murder and other charges in the death of Glen "Chuck" Rich.
In a seven-page opinion issued Wednesday, Appellate Judge Robert J. Morris supported Foster's analysis.
"It was clear from the record that at the time Montanez fired the shot, the vehicle was passing him," Morris wrote. "Thus we are not persuaded that he was still in the zone of uncertainty such that he was entitled to discharge the weapon in self-defense."
Montanez's attorney, Jay Hebert, said he and his client were "deeply disappointed."
Hebert said they will weigh their legal options. He said they could ask the appeals court or Foster to clarify their decisions.
The shooting occurred about 5 a.m. Jan. 8, 2006.
Reporter Tom Brennan can be reached at (813) 259-7698.
MESA -- A Mesa family who lost their 17-year-old son in a tragic accident is leaning on the public.
Dwight Brock Jr. was killed over the weekend, run over by his younger sister while the two were messing around in the parking lot of Superstition Springs Mall Saturday evening. Brock was jumping in front of the car and his sister, Nicole, would slam on the brakes.
The last time that happened, Nicole, 16, was unable to stop in time and ran over her big brother.
Dwight's father, Brock Sr., is an employee of Ace Towing. Now the towing community is coming together to help the Brock family. A line of tow trucks was on hand, the first customers at car wash to help raise money to help the Brock family cover funeral costs.
The family is holding a series of car washes over the next several days, the first of which is today until 2 p.m. at the AutoZone at Sossaman and Guadalupe roads. They be back out there Saturday, 9 a.m. until dusk. On Sunday, they'll be at the Circle K at Sossaman and Baseline roads from 9 a.m. until dusk.
In addition, a bank account has been set up at Midfirst Bank in the name of Dwight Brock Jr. Memorial Support Trust.
Services for Dwight are scheduled for this evening at At Season's End Mortuary, 105 S. Delaware Drive in Apache Junction.
More than three years after their initial arrests, a family of tow truck operators accused of scamming unwitting motorists out of hundreds of thousands of dollars will stand trial for their alleged crimes.
After being bounced around the court system for years, the case will head to trial in August and will likely last about four months, Deputy District Attorney Dale Lohman said. With a date in mind, she can finally start sending out subpoenas to the 50-plus witnesses she'll be calling to the stand.
Vincent Cardinalli Sr., 66; his son, Paul Greer, 32; his daughter, Rosemary Ball, 35; and her husband, Michael Ball, 39, face 158 counts of conspiracy, forgery, perjury, attempted grand theft and other felony charges stemming from a tow-and-sue scheme the family used to parlay their towing and collections businesses into a gold mine, according to court documents.
Cardinalli was originally arrested in June 2007, along with his accomplices, on 88 felony counts. He then posted bail but was subsequently re-arrested in January 2008 after the court discovered, thanks to reporting in the Hollister Free Lance, two arson convictions in 1979.
Since then, Cardinalli has been sitting in a Santa Clara County Jail cell awaiting his day in court. Cardinalli represented himself during a five week preliminary hearing that, at times, inched along while he stumbled through his own defense. About a month ago, Cardinalli heeded the advice of Superior Court Judge Gilbert Brown and secured attorney Tammy Miller-Holmgren through the county's Independent Defender's Office. Miller-Holmgren will need months to plow through a mountain of evidence, she and other attorneys said.
Cardinalli has stated his intent to file for a reduction in bail at a meeting next month, Lohman said. Cardinalli's bail is currently $500,000, according to the Santa Clara County Department of Corrections.
"I'll be opposing that," Lohman said. "There hasn't been a change in circumstances that would warrant a revisiting of his bail."
The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 18 in Department 32 of the Hall of Justice in San Jose.
A tow-truck driver attempting to tow a car from an apartment parking lot tonight was confronted by a group of residents and shot in the neck with a BB gun, police said.
About a dozen people confronted John Stellabote of J and J Towing, who was towing the car at the Casa Linda Apartments, 3650 Airport Road, at the property manager's request, said Colorado Springs Police Sgt. Dave Gilman.
Some in the group jumped on the hood of the car he was towing when Stellabote sprayed pepper spray at two in the groups, Gilman said. An infant may have been hit with some of the chemical.
A 21-year-old woman then pointed what looked like a handgun at the driver and fired several shots. The gun turned out to be a toy BB gun and the man suffered a superficial wound to his neck, Gilman said.
The woman, Jerica Hill, left the scene but was arrested a short time later on suspicion of felony menacing and second-degree assault.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
PORTLAND, Ore. – Effective January 1, drivers must “move over” for police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, tow trucks and emergency roadside responders.
Lawmakers expanded the “Move Over” law to include towtrucks and emergency responders, who also face treacherous conditions while working on
’s roads. The problem is that most drivers don’t know about it yet. Oregon
Drivers are required to move to the left lane when approaching an emergency vehicle from the rear. If it’s not safe to move,
drivers must slow down to 5 miles below the speed limit. The driver must “maintain a safe distance” from emergency vehicles or face a hefty fine of around $400. Oregon
Tow truck drivers who risk their lives on surface streets and freeways are hoping more people will obey the new law. Tow truck driver Gerardo Cavallero said he’s already experienced some close calls this year and is hoping he won’t have anymore.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
HOUSTON - Child Protective Services is investigating a mom and dad after their 3-year-old son was found wandering the streets with his dog around overnight Tuesday.
A tow-truck driver spotted the boy and a dog walking unsupervised in the 13000 block of Kuykendahl around 2 a.m. Tuesday, CPS Spokeswoman Estella Olguin said.
The boy was wearing blue jeans, a multi-colored, long-sleeved shirt, socks and had his tennis shoes on wrong.
Sheriff's deputies later discovered the lived at an apartment complex about a mile away from where he was found, Olguin said.
The toddler told investigators he was taking his dog for a walk, she said.
The child's parents then called CPS in the morning and said they had called 911 after they woke up and noticed he was missing, she said. However, CPS is keeping the child under its custody until the parents submit to drug tests and further investigate the incident.
By Beauregard Tromp and Sapa A taxi driver is dead and a passenger is in a critical condition after an argument with a tow truck driver ended in bloodshed.
In what witnesses have described as a road rage incident, both the taxi and tow truck were travelling down Barrage Road in Vanderbijlpark when there was an argument over use of the road.
"They stopped and started arguing," said police spokeswoman Constable Thembeka Koaga. The argument involved the taxi driver and some of his passengers on one side and the tow truck driver, his son and a friend on the other.
During the fracas, the tow truck's front window was smashed with a brick, and damage was also caused to the taxi.The argument deteriorated into a fight during which the tow truck driver pulled his firearm and fatally shot the taxi driver, wounding a passenger in the process.
The taxi driver died en route to hospital, and the wounded passenger was in a critical condition in hospital last night, according to ER24.
The tow truck driver has been charged with murder, attempted murder and malicious damage to property.
His son and friend, along with one of the taxi's passengers, have been charged with malicious damage to property and assault, according to Koaga.
Meanwhile, a Joburg metro police officer was arrested for drunk driving after a high-speed car chase that ended in a collision.
"A metro police officer was arrested on Saturday night by the internal affairs unit after he crashed his private car into a parked car on the corner of Main and Ferreira streets in Rosettenville," Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said.
The unit investigates misconduct among metro police officers.
Members of the unit spotted a stationary car at a green traffic light around midnight on Saturday, Minnaar said. They then noticed that the driver was slumped over the wheel.
"When the unit approached the car, the driver woke up and sped away. He attempted to flee from the officers by driving through a number of red lights," Minnaar said.
The chase ended when the fleeing officer crashed his car into another vehicle parked on the side of the road, Minnaar said. The unit's officers then identified the man as a metro police officer.
A breathalyser test showed his blood alcohol volume at 0.6mg per 1 000 ml of breath, three times over the legal limit.
"A disciplinary investigation will follow," Minnaar said.
More than 600 000 vehicles and drivers were stopped and checked across the country from December 1 to December 31 as part of the festive season Arrive Alive Road Safety Campaign, the authorities said at the weekend.
When he launched the campaign on December 6, Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele said no less than a million vehicles and drivers would be stopped and checked in December and early January.
According to preliminary reports, at least 1 050 deaths (276 drivers, 419 passengers and 355 pedestrians) were recorded on South Africa's roads since December 1.
Speed has been reported as a major contributory factor to these crashes, said Transport Department spokesman Logan Maistry.
For the same period during 2008 (December 1 to December 31, 2008), 1 348 deaths were recorded on the country's roads.
Ndebele said: "We urge all South Africans to make road safety part of their New Year resolutions or risk losing their driving licence this year.
"The introduction of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences this year will enhance a culture of compliance through the points demerit system, and those who continue to disregard the law will forfeit their driving licence. Obey the law or pay the price."
Between December 1 and December 31, 2009, more than 285 000 motorists were fined for speeding; 3 487 drunk drivers were arrested; 244 motorists were apprehended for reckless and negligent driving; 2 517 unroadworthy vehicles were removed from the roads, including 1 209 buses and taxis; and thousands of drivers were fined for not wearing their seatbelts and other offences.
Traffic volumes are expected to increase in the next few days as people return home to resume work.
Law enforcement officers would continue to be out in full force to ensure safety on the roads, Maistry said.
A story on this was originally posted in early December (click to read it). Here's a more in-depth story from The Argus Leader:
Last November, Mark Pyle opened the gas bill for his business, A Plus Towing and Repair at 1309 E. Walnut St., and got a good laugh - at first.
The bill from MidAmerican Energy Co. for more than $7,600 must have had an extra zero, at least, he thought."We just laughed. We thought it was a misprint," he said. "Then we opened it up and there was a letter in there. It said the meter was off, and we have the right to charge you for 10 years. We said, 'Oh my God, this isn't a joke.' "
MidAmerican's insistence that A Plus Towing is responsible for a decade's worth of unreported natural gas use - and its only concession being a 24-month repayment plan - prompted Pyle to file a complaint with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, a rarity that might influence the way the PUC deals with these types of complaints in the future.
The PUC might weigh A Plus Towing's liability for using natural gas for which it never paid against Des Moines-based MidAmerican's responsibility to ensure it is correctly recording its customers' gas usage and billing them appropriately. MidAmerican claims it is following PUC rules with their request.
"To me, this is likely a two-step process," PUC Chairman Dusty Johnson said. "We need to take care of this specific case. Once that is resolved, we need to take the opportunity to see if the commission's rules and practices are good enough and written right to handle this."
Meter programmed incorrectly in 1997
The problem that led to the dispute between MidAmerican and A Plus Towing began when MidAmerican incorrectly programmed a meter at A Plus Towing in 1997, according to MidAmerican Spokesman Mark Reinders.
It probably would have gone on forever underreporting the amount of natural gas A Plus Towing used if there had not been a fire in the building last September that damaged the meter. When MidAmerican installed a new meter in October, it discovered the mistake."The situation is quite unique, that something hadn't been discovered prior to this time," Reinders said.But when MidAmerican found the error, it relied on the PUC's own administrative rules allowing utilities to recover costs from as far back as 10 years, said Reinders, defending MidAmerican's decision to seek repayment.
If A Plus Towing had been overcharged, Reinders said, Pyle would have been justified in seeking reimbursement.Pyle counters that he never tried to avoid paying a bill."We always paid what they asked us to pay without any argument," he said. "It is not about paying our bill. Somewhere there should be some liability, and it shouldn't all be on the tenant."
Regular tests too costly, MidAmerican says
As part of the resolution of this case, Pyle wants to see a requirement that utility companies regularly test metering equipment.
Reinders said that would saddle companies with unreasonable costs. MidAmerican has 83,600 natural gas customers in South Dakota.
"We don't go out every year to make sure every meter is working correctly," Reinders said.
Short of doing so, however, Johnson questions whether utilities such as MidAmerican ever will truly learn the dimensions of metering problems.
"It makes me wonder how many other meters we've got out there that aren't working properly," he said.
Reinders said he is unaware of any similar pending complaints against MidAmerican in the Sioux Falls area.
Reinders said he does not know whether MidAmerican is interested in making an offer to Pyle to settle the bill and avoid going before the PUC.
MidAmerican has until the middle of this month to respond, and Johnson predicted MidAmerican has a high hurdle to clear to get all it claims it is owed.
"MidAmerican is really going to have its work cut out for it to convince the commission what they are trying to do makes sense," Johnson said.
Most complaints resolved informally
He said he is mystified the case reached the stage of a formal complaint. Typically, the PUC fields about 2,000 contacts annually from consumers with disputes about utility bills. Most are resolved informally and fewer than 10 usually end up as full-blown complaints.
However, Johnson acknowledges "this is one of the most interesting cases we've had filed in the five years I have been on the commission."
From his perspective, Pyle is sticking to a point of principle. He wants to establish that utility companies share liability when gas and power usage is not properly reported, and those companies can't as a matter of course bill customers for the full amount of unrecorded use.
"I'd rather ride it out to the end, so this is eye-opening for them so they can't do this. It's just not right," he said.
But he'd listen to an offer, he acknowledged. However, "it would have to be a pretty reasonable deal, more in my favor than their favor."Reach Peter Harriman at 575-3615
by KYW's Karin Phillips
A group of tow truck drivers gathered in West Philadelphia on Tuesday to deliver toys to kids in need -- and perhaps give their own reputations a boost.
(Sounds of cheering children and adults:) "Thank you, Santa!... and your helpers!"
The helpers are owners and workers at several tow truck companies who blocked off the intersection of 34th and Baring Streets on Tuesday with their trucks to deliver unwrapped toys for the children at the Baring Street Crisis Nursery.
This is likely the only holiday party these kids will have. Three-year-old Yahir got a football:
"I gonna take it home!"
And what is he going to do with it?
"I'll play with it!"
Many of the drivers complained that they get a bad rap as tow truck operators, and the holiday party is a way to give back to the community. Said one:
"Next time you see a tow truck, say 'Those guys are nice!' "
(Photos by KYW's Karin Phillips)
Police have identified 18-year-old Luicci Nader of Huntington Beach as the driver of the Ferrari that crashed on East Coast Highway near Jamboree Road on Dec. 24.
Nader, who remains in critical condition at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana and is unable to speak, was driving the sports car west on East Coast Highway with his relative, Ralph Abinader, 24, in the passenger seat about 5:12 p.m. Police said the Ferrari, a gray 2008 F-430 Spider, was speeding down the highway between Jamboree and Bayside Drive when it lost control and careened onto the other side of the road.
The car smashed head-on into a tow truck, police said. The Ferrari split in two and caught fire. Abinader died at the scene.
If Nader recovers from his injuries, he could face gross vehicular manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter charges for Abinader’s death, said Sgt. Evan Sailor said. Speed contributed to the crash, he said. It would be up to the Orange County district attorney’s office, in cooperation with traffic investigators, to determine if Nader would face misdemeanor or felony charges.
The driver and passenger in the tow truck walked away with minor injuries. Police have not determined if drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash.