CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – A community is in mourning… Trying to make sense of a tragic incident.
“Between prayers and showing love to the family, that’s all we can do,” St. Joseph Village President/Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges said.
The people of St. Joseph suffered a loss over the weekend. A volunteer firefighter with the Stanton Fire Protection District was killed working as a tow truck operator. Now, other tow truck drivers are speaking up about the dangers of their profession.
“It’s your job. You can’t just leave people out there. So, you have to go get it done,” Feldkamps tow truck operator Esten Watson said.
Two Feldkamps operators organized a tribute for Tatman’s tow truck operator Ross Booker Sunday night. Along with Champaign Police and Edge-Scott Fire Protection District, at least five different towing companies showed up with their lights on out of respect.
“Everyone put their differences aside, got it done for the night, in the pouring rain… we were out there. No one complained about it once,” Feldkamps operator Jessica Green said. “You always hear about it happening everywhere else… but it hits really close whenever you’ve worked scenes with a kid.”
Booker was clearing a scene Saturday night when a driver struck him.
“He [Tatman’s] wanted us to light up our yard – just our yard – and we thought it’d show better unity to get as many tow trucks as we could together.”
Booker’s community, and other tow truck operators, are still shaken.
“Words can’t describe how people feel about it because, you know, it’s a death… especially in your community,” Watson said.
But words can describe how operators band together when times are tough.
“It’s a brotherhood. If one brother needs help, we’re there to help,” Green said.
They both said drivers don’t always realize the dangers tow truck operators face every day.
“We have to get there, clear the scene of an accident, so we can get the roads back open so that more accidents don’t happen,” Watson said.
Mayor Fruhling-Voges said the village is close… And the fire department is especially tight knit.
“A community like St. Joe, which is a lot like a lot of other communities – large and small, you pull together during these times…and you get through it somehow.”
She said the other firefighters will need a lot of strength… And she’s supporting the family however she can.
Champaign Police and Illinois State Police want to remind drivers of the importance of Scott’s Law. It requires you to change lanes around emergency and maintenance vehicles with flashing lights.