CABAZON: Tow truck driver exiting his vehicle killed when struck by passing big-rig

CABAZON — A tow truck driver died this morning when he was struck by a tractor-trailer semi-truck while exiting his flatbed tow truck in the unincorporated community of Cabazon.

Officials investigating the crash do not suspect intoxication or excessive speed to have been contributing factors in the crash, which happened on Interstate 10, along a curve in the highway, about two miles east of Main St. and west of Haugen-Lehmann Way.

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The victim was identified as a 50-year-old Cabazon resident and tow truck driver for Stagecoach Towing. According to CHP, the man succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene by medical personnel. The victim’s name has not been released pending further investigation and notification of the man’s family.

A tow truck driver from Stagecoach Towing was killed when he was struck by a passing big-rig on the westbound I-10, east of Main St., in Cabazon. Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents photo

California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire Riverside County Fire, and AMR medics, responded to the accident shortly after 9 a.m., after 911 callers reported seeing a tow truck driver laying within the lanes of traffic on the westbound I-10.

Callers reported the victim had possibly been hit by a big-rig while parked off the roadway, along the right-hand shoulder of the freeway. Callers also advised several motorists had pulled over to the side of the freeway and were attempting to provide aid and comfort to the mortally injured victim.

After hearing about the collision on police and emergency band radios, several other Stagecoach and other area tow drivers who were nearby when the accident was reported raced to the scene to offer any possible assistance.

When officials arrived at the scene they found the victim’s lifeless body “just right of the yellow fog line,” according to a CHP incident log, with big-rigs, other tow vehicles, and good Samaritans who had pulled over after the collision.

“The first arriving engine company reported one victim struck by a vehicle who perished at the scene,” Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire spokesperson Tawny Cabral later explained in an incident report.

CHP quickly called for the temporary closure of the number four lane of the freeway and requested CalTrans officials to the scene to assist with setting up barriers and signs for the closure. The lane remained closed for about three hours until the conclusion of CHP’s initial on-scene collision investigation.

While officials were investigating the accident, the flat-bed tow truck could be seen along the side of the freeway with its open driver’s side door damaged and ripped forward. The victim’s body lay on the ground nearby covered with a yellow tarp, until Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner officials arrived at the scene and took custody of his body.

During their initial investigation CHP determined Marco Rodriguez, 52, of Riverside, was traveling westbound on I-10 in a white, 2012 Volvo tractor pulling a white semi-trailer in the slow lane at about 55 mph just before the accident.

CHP has ruled out alcohol and drug intoxication as well as speeding as possible contributing factors in the fatal collision. California Tow Association photo

“The tow truck driver had parked his 2015 International flatbed tow truck on the north asphalt shoulder of I-10 westbound and got out of the driver’s seat, CHP spokesperson Officer Darren Meyer later explained. “There were no disabled vehicles in the area and it is unknown why the tow truck driver was stopped on the shoulder of the freeway.”

“As the big rig approached the tow truck, Rodriguez allowed his vehicle to drift onto the north shoulder,” Meyer continued. “At the same time, the tow truck driver opened the driver’s tow truck door and was climbing into the driver’s seat.”

The passenger side of the big-rig subsequently collided with the opened tow truck door and threw the driver from the side of his rig and into the slow lane of the freeway.

A passing motorist quickly pulled over and managed to drag the victim from the traffic lanes before he was struck by any other vehicles, while other motorists and witnesses called 911 to report the fatal accident.

The driver of the big-rig remained at the scene after the collision and was reportedly cooperating with CHP’s investigation.

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No arrests were made and no citations were issued at the scene, according to Meyer and officials at CHP’s Desert Hills Inspection Facility later conducted a full, mechanical inspection of the involved big rig.

In a tragically similar collision last October, 28-year-old, Wildomar resident, Kyle Crull, was killed while working as a tow truck driver working for DJ’s Towing after he was struck by a teen who officials later said was driving under the influence of alcohol.

Crull had reportedly stopped to help a stranded motorist in Temecula.

Danika McGetrick, 19, of Temecula, was later booked on suspicion of DUI/gross vehicular manslaughter.

She pleaded not guilty to her charges and remains out of custody since posting $75,000 bail. However, a warrant was issued for her arrest after she missed an April court appearance. That warrant was later quashed and vacated by the Honorable Judge Mark Mandio after her private attorney Robin Johnson made arrangements for a new court date.

McGetrick’s next court appearance, a felony settlement conference, is scheduled for next week – Aug. 13, at Murrieta’s Southwest Justice Center.

CHP’s investigation into the cause of the collision is active and ongoing.

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” boasts 13 children and 14 – soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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