SAGINAW (WJRT) (1/11/2018) - A tow truck operator dies in the United States every six days on average.
Wednesday evening, that statistic came home to Mike's Wrecker Service in Saginaw. The company experienced the horror of losing one its drivers for the first time in the company's six-decade history.
Tom Tripp, 41, was hit and killed by a suspected drunk driver while loading a disabled car onto his flatbed alongside Dixie Highway near Zelle Drive.
"My heart sank. We knew we had a driver in the area," said Bill Giorgis, the owner of Mike's Wrecker Service. "When the police called us and there is an accident involving a tow man, and they weren't sure if it was us or not, we immediately headed down there and we realized it was Tom."
Tripp was helping the driver of a car with a flat tire that he couldn't repair on the roadside. While the car was getting loaded onto his flatbed, a Jeep Cherokee hit and killed him.
Tripp, a father and grandfather, was pronounced dead at the scene.
"It's horrible. It's unspeakable grief," Giorgis said. "Heart as big as the city, he is an amazing human being, and just a wonderful person to work with."
The 49-year-old Bridgeport Township woman who was driving the Jeep was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving.
Giorgis has always worried something like this could happen. He pointed out Michigan has a move-over law, which requires drivers to move one lane away from where they see emergency lights, including police, fire, EMS and tow truck drivers.
"If people see the lights, they are supposed to move over, but if they are not paying attention, they don't see the lights, they don't move over," Giorgis said.
He always fears the "D" drivers.
"The distracted, the drugged, the drunk, the drowsy and sometimes just plain dumb drivers that are not paying attention, and those are the ones that are killing our tow truck drivers," Giorgis said.
The Bridgeport Township woman had not been formally charged by Thursday evening. The township's police chief is meeting with the Saginaw County Prosecutor's Office on Friday to review the possible criminal charges she could face.