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Tow truck drivers salute one of their fallen

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

A cortege of tow trucks rolled down Bandera's Main Street Wednesday, August 1, as tow truck drivers from Bandera and surrounding counties paid tribute to the life and memory of Travis Lee Danner.

Danner, 21, of Bandera, died Friday, July 27, in a traffic accident on IH 10 East near Trainer Hale Road.

Danner was helping a stranded motorist with a tire change while on a call from his employer, Fat Boy Towing out of New Braunfels.

According to news reports, Danner was struck by the driver of an 18-wheeler early Friday evening along the eastbound lane. The big rig slammed into the tow truck, then hit Danner and the motorist's Ford pickup.

The driver of the rig managed to maneuver the big truck into the highway median and escaped just before it burst into flames.

Law enforcement officers closed that section of IH 10 for three hours until the scene was cleared.

According to George Crenwelge, president of Fat Boy Towing, most people don't realize how dangerous being a tow truck driver is. "According to the Towing and Recovery Association of America, twice as many tow truck drivers die annually as do police officers and firefighters combined," said Crenwelge.

Danner had been employed by the towing company only a couple of months prior to his death. "You have to be 21," explained Crenwelge.

Danner's birthday was in late April. "He had three weeks of on-the-job training with the man who was his future father-in-law."

A number of south and central Texas towing companies traveled to Bandera Wednesday in order to honor Danner's memory and to share the message about the dangers facing tow truck drivers on the job. As the towers lined up in the parking lot of Heimer Diesel on Highway 16 South, the drivers wore chartreuse shirts adorned with black ribbons saying, "In memory of Travis Danner." Some wore black wristlets with the reminder " Move over, slow down - R.I.P. TLD 7/27/2012." Just prior to Danner's scheduled memorial service, the tow trucks moved down 16 and down Main Street.

In 2003, Texas passed the Move Over Act. The law requires all motorists to move into another lane if possible and slow down to 20 miles per hour when they see an emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the roadside.

The law was intended to reduce the number of injuries to police officers, paramedics, ambulance workers and fire fighters. "The last legislature amended the law to include tow trucks," said Crenwelge.

In some states, tow trucks are not allowed to leave their flashing lights on after pulling off the roadway. However, that's not the case in Texas, said Crenwelge. "Travis had all the flashing lights on."

The Department of Public Safety is continuing its investigation into the accident and the reason for the big rig's driver to run into the roadside vehicles has not been determined.

Anywhere from 40 to 50 tow truck drivers are killed every year on the job, and about three-fourths of those are killed by other motorists.

"Drivers are so distracted these days. Everybody is on the phone or texting. They're not paying attention," said Crenwelge.

Klaus Klapac of Klaus Towing said in a report on tow truck driving safety, "Tow truck driving is dangerous even on a good day."

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, "occupational and fatality rates among emergency responders - including tow truck drivers - are more than twice the national average for all industries."

The International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee erected a "Wall of the Fallen" in 2007.

By driving alertly and remembering to "move over and slow down" motorists can make sure no more tow truck drivers are added to that wall.

Pictured: Tow truck companies from south and central Texas honored the memory of fellow driver Travis Danner at his funeral service in Bandera Wednesday.

Inset left: Travis Lee Danner

Inset right: Tow truck drivers honoring the memory of Travis Danner wore black wristlets to remind motorists to "Move over, slow down."