Alberta tow truck companies are pleading with motorists to slow down after two drivers were hurt and at least three trucks hit during Edmonton’s big snowfall this weekend.
“We need the public’s help. We need them to slow down and be aware we’re working out there,” said Don Getschel, owner of Oil Country Towing. “There’s people that are dying.”
On Sunday, one of his employees was hurt on the job. The crew was called to Highway 2 south of Leduc.
“They were pulling a car out of the ditch and a semi approached them and wasn’t able to stop in time,” Getschel said.
“It ended up impacting the trucks… hit this truck and this truck was the one that was to give advance warning. It hit this one and it still had enough speed that it hit the second one before coming to a stop about another 100 metres after the trucks.”
He said his 21-year-old driver did everything right — warned the others and created an escape route — but there was a chain reaction.
“Our driver ran to get out of the way of the accident and there was a third truck that was avoiding hitting everyone.
“He was driving through the ditch and unfortunately he clipped our driver.
“I saw him on scene, he was pretty banged up… he had obvious trauma to his arm… He was thrown about 40 feet.”
The driver was taken to hospital where he had surgery Monday morning.
“Being in the industry for about 20 years, that was probably my worst night as a tower,” Getschel said. “You never like to get that phone call… to administer first aid to someone you trained and someone you mentored, that’s really hard and it’s really emotional. It effects all of us.
“This is the thing we dread. This is our nightmare.”
The two Oil Country Towing trucks weren’t the only ones struck during the snow storm.
A Handz Towing employee was pulling a car out of the ditch on Highway 16 eastbound between Stony Plain and Spruce Grove at 5:30 p.m. Sunday night when the tow truck was hit by a truck.
The company told Global News a minivan tried to avoid that collision and hit the ditch, striking the driver.
The tow truck driver — who had 20 years’ experience in the industry — hit the grill of the minivan and was thrown about 20 feet. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance but later released with lots of bruising.
Getschel posted a message on Facebook Sunday calling on the Alberta government to make changes to make the industry safer.
In addition to public awareness, he believes putting blue lights on tow trucks would increase visibility and protect drivers.
“When we’re out there and there’s a police car out there, it is far easier to see the blue light cutting through the snow than the amber and the red,” Getschel said.
“I can’t count how many times I’ve come up in bad weather and I see that blue light before I see any other lights… I start to see the other lights as I get closer.”
Transportation Minister Brian Mason said the province is looking at the research to see if blue lights are the best way to improve safety.
“We know they’ve gone that way in Saskatchewan so we’re in touch with Transportation in Saskatchewan. I’ve asked the department to look at it on a fairly urgent basis to see if we need to move forward in that direction, if it’s the right answer,” Mason said.
“We also want to talk to police who have blue lights now and get their views as well.”
Mason also said his thoughts were with the injured drivers and he wished them speedy recoveries.
“I want to remind people that tow trucks, under the Traffic Safety Act, are treated the same as emergency vehicles,” he said.
“If the lights are flashing and somebody’s there, you need to, if you’re going by in an adjacent lane, you need to slow down to at least 60 km/h on a highway.”
He said he was hopeful to hear back from transportation officials in Saskatchewan with evidence on the effectiveness of blue lights early in the new year.