March 18, 2017 9:22 pm
Updated: March 20, 2017 2:13 pm

Tow truck procession honours driver killed on the job

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A procession of tow truck drivers was held Saturday in memory of a fellow driver who was killed on the job.

Around 100 trucks drove from Yorkton to Esterhazy, Sask., in memory of Courtney Schaefer. He was killed in a crash on Highway 22 that involved a semi-tractor trailer, two other vehicles and his tow truck on March 7.

Friends remembered Schaefer as a down-to-earth family man who loved helping others.

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“If he was going somewhere, he’d text you to make sure his area was looked after. He didn’t want his customers to do without,” said Schaefer’s friend Willy Cowan.

Cowan said he would miss the camaraderie he had with Schaefer the most. He said he choked up when he was driving along with dozens of others in the procession.

“Courtney would love it,” he said.

“We’re pretty tough guys on the outside, but we’re soft on the inside, and it’s pretty amazing to see this today,” Dallas Baillie, an organizer for the tow truck procession, said.

The tow truck industry in Saskatchewan is largely made up of small, family-run businesses, and for many drivers, the tragedy struck close to home.

“When we heard the news of Courtney’s passing, we were working in the blizzard same as he was. And I was sending my sons, we’re sending them out there to save somebody that maybe shouldn’t have been out there in this type of weather,” Baillie said.

“My son tows; he’s been hit once. I’ve been hit twice,” said Brad Stratychuk, director of the Roadside Responders Association of Saskatchewan. “A lot of companies are family-run, have lots of family members, and it’s just tragic. It didn’t have to happen.”

At the family’s request, tow truck drivers attended a service for Schaefer in their high-visibility vests or company uniform.

“I wish it hadn’t happened. Unfortunately, it did, and we have to do what we can as an industry and brotherhood to get together and support each other and bring public awareness to the real danger,” Stratychuk said.

Vehicles must slow to 60 km/h when passing a tow truck with its lights on an undivided highway, but tow truck drivers say many people speed by them.

They’re pushing the government to change the colour of lights on tow trucks to red and amber (instead of only amber) to remind drivers to slow down.

“It’s hard to say in this instance if it would have made a difference, but it might on the next one,” Stratychuk said.

Tow truck drivers are trying to remind people there’s a human being standing out on the road, he said. “It’s not worth the 25 seconds you’re going to change to whip by us at 100 [km/h],” he said.

“We’re just family people,” Cowan said. “We’re brothers, sisters — that’s someone’s parent, someone’s daughter, someone’s son on the highway. Just please slow down.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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