Road safety tragedy hits home for B.C. tow truck firm

Family member killed in Castlegar responding to accident scene

Darlene Moretto has always understood the dangers tow truck drivers face at accident scenes.

When she and her husband started Mario’s Towing more than 30 years ago in Kelowna, the dangers of being hit by a speeding vehicle while trying to clear a vehicle or debris on the road after an accident has occurred is something never out of mind for their drivers on a daily basis.

So the tragedy hit home that much more when she learned this week her brother-in-law, Wayne Kernachan, was killed when stuck by a vehicle while assisting a driver on Saturday, Nov 17.

Her family loss was a painful reminder that tow truck drivers are an endangered species and more needs to be done to ensure their safety.

RELATED: Changing driver behaviour will change driver attitude

“He was a father of three, a husband and someone I spoke with almost on a daily basis,” said Moretto of her brother-in-law, who used to work for Mario’s Towing before moving to Castlegar to start his own towing business with his son.

While the accident is still under police investigation, Moretto said Kernachan stopped on his way home from work to assist someone who disabled their vehicle after hitting a deer.

Kernachan activated his tow truck beacon lights, put on his high visibility apparel and began to remove some of the vehicle debris from the road when he was hit by a truck speeding past the accident scene.

RELATED: Convoy to honour tow truck driver

What happened to Kernachan is not a rare occurrence in B.C., says Ken McCormack, president and CEO of the Automotive Retailers Association of B.C., which advocates on behalf of tow truck operators for road safety measures.

McCormack said two deaths and 15 other serious injuries have been inflicted on tow truck drivers in B.C. over the past decade.

“It is not a small issue and not an isolated issue. In North America, a tow truck driver is killed on the road every week,” McCormack said.

“We recently had one day in Surrey where two tow truck drivers were hit in the same day. One of them was thrown 50 feet after being hit by a truck and somehow survived fortunately. It is insane out there some days.”

He said his association has for the past five years lobbied the provincial government for tow trucks to be equipped with blue and white flashing lights in addition to amber lights to better attract driver’s attention to show caution and slow down when passing an accident scene.

He said Saskatchewan has adopted similar regulations and Alberta is in the process of legislating these changes, but B.C. has so far been reticent to make the change.

“We’ve talked to all the folks in Victoria about this, first with the Liberal government and now the NDP, but some emergency responders such as police have been reluctant to support the move because the lights are a unique identifier for their people,” McCormack said.

“But we know this has made a positive impact in other jurisdictions across Canada and the U.S. and not had a negative impact on other emergency responders.”

RELATED: Crackdown on distracted driving infractions

He said the province has previously adopted the slow down and move over campaign to encourage drivers to slow down when passing an accident scene, especially one where a tow truck driver is first on the scene and police and paramedics have not yet arrived, but the message doesn’t appear to be sinking in.

“It’s a pretty sad commentary about us as drivers,” McCormack acknowledged. “We need to do more to get that message across and we feel the blue and white flashing lights would help reduce the safety risk for tow truck drivers.”

For Moretto, who traveled with her family from Kelowna to the Kootenays commuity last weekend for Kernachan’s funeral, she hopes the loss of her brother-in-law will add some resonance to the need for additional safety measures to protect her industry.

“He was simply on his way home after a long day and did everything he could have done to protect himself,” she said.

“Close calls are a daily occurrence for tow truck drivers. The first thing that comes to mind is safety when you are at an accident scene. At the end of the day we all want to go home, we all want to be safe doing our jobs.”



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Coast home-grown ice talent Carly Edwards from Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert takes centre ice on TV competition show Battle of the Blades Wednesday nights at 8 p.m., with her partner NHL partner Chris Versteeg. (Photo supplied)
Local figure skater spotlights on TV show’s center ice

Prince Rupert’s Carly Edwards is featured on TV competition show Battle of the Blades

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
PHOTOS: Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

B.C. Ferries is still providing ferry service between Tsawwassen and Victoria, 60 years later. (File - Black Press Media)
Ferry sailings cancelled for Oct. 29th and 30th

BC Ferries announces technical difficulties on Northern Expedition

Technical difficulties with the recording and broadcast of the Oct. 26 Prince Rupert City Council meeting mean residents were unable to watch on TV or online happenings in the meeting. (The Northern View file photo)
Technical difficulties leave public unable to access City Council meeting

Summary brief of Prince Rupert City Council meeting

Requests for proposals for the first stage of a water treatment facility project have been issued by the City of Prince Rupert on Oct. 26. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Water treatment facility project in Prince Rupert enters first phase

Prince Rupert seeks proposals for assessment of water quality supply and treatment options

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Most Read