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Driver killed after semi-trailer catches fire in QEII Highway crash: RCMP

‘Sick to my stomach:’ Tow truck driver reiterates safety message following fatal semi crash
WATCH: The driver of a semi-truck has died after a fiery crash involving a tow truck. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, a tow truck operator who was first assigned to the crash says it’s only luck the tow truck driver who did respond survived.

RCMP say one person was killed in a crash in central Alberta on Wednesday that caused a semi-trailer to catch fire.

The collision happened on the QEII Highway south of Highway 42 near Penhold just after 11 p.m.

RCMP said a semi-trailer collided with the back of a tow truck that was stopped on the side of the highway as the driver tended to a third vehicle.

READ MORE: Strathcona County RCMP ‘did not contribue to fatal rollover’ in 2018 that left teen dead: police watchdog

In a Thursday news release, RCMP explained that the 62-year-old driver of the semi-trailer was unable to exit the truck, which caught fire. He was pronounced dead on scene.

According to RCMP, the driver of the tow truck was not in his vehicle at the time of the crash and wasn’t injured, nor was the driver he was assisting.

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“The collision remains under investigation and information about the reason for the collision is under further investigation,” RCMP said.

Derek Stehr, a tow truck driver from Innisfail, said he was originally going to take the call when it came in on Wednesday night.

Stehr told Global News said he was “sick to his stomach” after hearing what happened.

“We are not forced to do this job,” Stehr said. “We willingly go out there to keep people off the road that are stranded. It’s a risk that we take.

“In the years that I’ve been doing this, the amount of close calls that we get — it’s scary.”

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Stehr said the ongoing fight to get blue lights installed on tow trucks could help the situation, but he believes a large part of the problem comes down to people not paying attention when they’re behind the wheel.

“I’ve had people come flying up to our pylons and slam on their brakes and almost caused an accident there,” he said. “Nobody pays attention like they should be.

“It could be something as simple as that that creates a life-changing moment.”

READ MORE: Alberta firefighter happy to be alive after crash that injured 6 and destroyed his truck

Stehr said the situation could have been worse for the tow truck driver and the other driver at the scene.

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“He could have been underneath the vehicle when the semi hit,” Stehr said. “He could have been strapping the driver side of the truck down when the vehicle hit him. It was pure luck that he was where he was and able to move away at the time that he did.”

The crash caused the closure of the southbound lanes of Highway 2 while officers worked to remove the debris. Traffic was rerouted through Penhold on Highway 42 and south on Highway 2A to Highway 590.

The town of Penhold is located about halfway between Calgary and Edmonton.