By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
About 30 first responders ? police, paramedics, rescue personnel and tow truck drivers ? attended the Spirit Ride in Washington Tuesday morning and every one of them had a story of a close call they had with a motorist while responding to an emergency.
Sgt. Doug Rupe of the Iowa State Patrol recalled an incident that happened recently when he was removing tire debris from Highway 218. He said even though his vehicle was parked in plain sight with the lights flashing, a car going about 70 mph narrowly missed him, swerving only at the last second to miss the trooper.
?With all the traffic we have anymore and the inattentive drivers, it can be rather dangerous ? especially on the interstates and four-lanes,? Rupe said. ?Anybody who has been out there for any time has had several close calls. You just get lucky and it all works out most of the time.?
The American Towman Spirit Ride, which has been journeying through the United States, visited Washington Tuesday, June 12, to promote awareness of the Move Over law. A ceremony was held at the Washington County Fairgrounds honoring first responders who have lost their lives on the roadways and to help those in the line of danger everyday. The Move Over law requires vehicles coming up on a scene with emergency crews working on the roadway to get into the far lane and slow down. George Moore, of Moore?s BP Amoco, who had arranged for the Spirit Ride to come to Washington, beamed at the number of people who turned out. He counted emergency personnel as well as a good number of tow trucks from Washington, Sigourney, Fairfield, Iowa City, Ainsworth, Riverside, Crawfordsville, Brighton and Keota.
The casket displayed during the ceremony was built by lifelong singer-songwriter Michael Corbin as a stark reminder of the danger faced by emergency personnel, including tow drivers, every time they go on a call.
?I built it with the idea from Steve Calitri of American Towman magazine,? Corbin said. ?We had come up with the idea of doing something to promote the slowdown, move over law and we came up with the idea to build the casket. I built it to take across the country to honor first responders and promote the law.?
The tour began April 1 in Massachusetts and despite efforts to shine a light on the dangers to first responders, Corbin said there have been towers killed on the interstates.
Members of the Washington County Rescue Truck attended the event. Tim Wells, rescue fireman, said the vehicle had actually been struck while responding to an accident. ?It is very dangerous,? he said. ?All we can say is any traffic on the road needs to get over in the opposite lane and slow down.?