NEWS

Trust fund established for killed tow truck driver

01/19/2012 10:30 EST | Updated 03/20/2012 05:12 EDT

A trust fund in the memory of tow truck driver Paul Rocheleau, who was struck killed by a car while on the job, has been established.

Rocheleau, a 49-year-old father of two from LaSalle, Ont., was changing a tire on Highway 3 in Windsor, Ont., when a passing car struck and killed him.

A 63-year-old London, Ont., man was charged with careless driving.

Rocheleau was divorced and had two daughters and had a grandson. His employer, Sandwich West Towing, created the fund.

“Paul always talked about his daughters and grandson,” said Sandwich West Towing manager Jeff Kwiatkowski. “He was just so proud of them. We want to make sure that if they want to go to college or university, they can do that.”

Kwiatkowski said his company’s “phones have been ringing constantly” because so many people want to help. He said he’s fielded calls from people and towing associations from as far away as Florida and Calgary.

"We figured we had better get something set up," Kwiatkowski said.

Donations to Paul Rocheleau in trust can be made at any Scotiabank in Ontario.

"We’ve had an overwhelming amount of support," Kwiatkowski said. "Paul was a super nice guy. He saved the CAA member’s life by telling him to get out of the way at the scene."

Rocheleau warned the stranded motorist of the perils of the busy Highway 3 just seconds before a passing car hit him. Rocheleau, his tow truck and the car with the flat were all in the median of the highway when the incident occurred.

CAA wants laws changed

The CAA now wants the Highway Traffic Act amended to better protect tow truck drivers.

Elliott Silverstein is the manager of government relations for CAA. He said the act should force passing drivers to move over for tow trucks, the way they do for emergency vehicles.

"What CAA has been pushing for, and continues to push for, is to ensure that all roadside assistance vehicles are included so that when drivers are going by a situation where there is assistance happening by the side of the road, they get the same opportunities as other emergency vehicles," he said.

Rocheleau's death raised the questions about road safety. Rocheleau worked for a local company under contract with the CAA. Silverstein said the safety standards followed by his drivers are very thorough.

"They have to assess the situation at first, determine if there is any need for police or any other assistance required before beginning. And then also [make] sure that the member is safe and top of mind at all times," Silverstein said.

Rocheleau had been on the job three months and had completed a one-day safety training course. And the OPP said Rocheleau acted safely — he was in the median and his truck's amber lights were flashing — but some towing operators say the more experience, the better.

Fellow drivers united over safety concerns

Many of Rocheleau's fellow tow truck drivers have their own stories of close calls and near death experiences. And they, too, want better laws and fellow motorists to give them protection and respect as they work.

Steve LeClair tows for Myers Towing. Last month, while on the Dougall Parkway off-ramp, he was hit from behind while standing on his truck bed. The impact launched him 10 metres into a ditch.

"I landed on my head. Good thing it was a ditch, because I don't think I would've been so lucky if it was the asphalt," he said. "I just wish that people would slow down and move over and then we can all go home at the end of the night."

Brad Coxon owns Coxon's Towing on Manning Road, near the busy, fast-moving 401.

"My preference is for an operator, just for the road safety aspect, to be running around with a guy for two or three months, so he learns the ins and outs of the highway," Coxon said. "The highway's a total different beast than city traffic. You can't get enough experience, I don't think."

Towing companies also suggest passing drivers be required to slow down and move over when passing a tow truck, the same way they do for emergency vehicles such as police, fire and ambulances.

Some local tow truck drivers are now talking about organizing a tow truck procession for Rocheleau's funeral Monday.

"We miss Paul and wish he was back here," Kwiatkowski said.

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