NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. (KMSP) - A Twin Cities tow truck operator who was nearly killed while doing his job last month is sharing his nightmare in hopes other motorists learn a valuable lesson.
Alan Johnson was responding to freeway breakdown on I-694 near New Brighton, Minn. around 9:30 p.m. on April 13 when a suspected drunk driver plowed into his rig.
"My thought was they would see me at the last minute because how can you not? I got the lights going and everything,” Johnson, who has worked in towing for about 10 years, said.
Johnson was tending to the one vehicle outside his flatbed when a suspected drunk driver traveling at highway speed apparently made no attempt to move over or avoid the situation.
“When I jumped up on the bed of my truck, they plowed straight into the car I was towing. That car slammed into me," Johnson said.
The impact sent Johnson flying and knocked him unconscious. He suffered several broken ribs and shattered his right arm. Weeks later, after seeing the photos, Johnson acknowledged he is very lucky it was not worse.
Johnson's near-miss comes as AAA Minneapolis puts a bright spotlight on the dangers faced by tow truck operators, who work without protective gear potentially inches from disaster.
A new public service campaign using GoPro cameras to capture incredible video along twin cities freeways urges drivers to slow down and move over when tow truck operators are on the scene.
"It’s almost like a moth going to light. That's the way I look at it," Chris Beedle, a manager overseeing Johnson and more than one dozen operators at Highway 10 Towing in Coon Rapids, said. “People seem to see the flashing lights and instead of moving over the opposite way, they seem to come closer to you.”
The suspected drunk driver is facing the possibility of criminal vehicular operation charges.. Investigators are just waiting on final blood test results.
"I just wish people would take the time. Just picture your family member, your son, daughter, wife, husband, whoever. I'm sure you would move over then,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he will likely never regain the full motion in his arm. However, he is hoping he can return to some form of light work duty in a few weeks.
Highway 10 Towing has set up a GoFundMe account to help out Johnson while he mends at home.
Minnesota’s move over law requires drivers to move over a lane of traffic or at least slow down when emergency vehicles, including police, fire ambulances and tow trucks, are operating with their lights on while on the shoulder.