AURORA, Colo. - There were flashing lights and tow trucks as far as the eye could see.
Dozens of tow truck operators gathered at Gateway High School in Aurora Saturday, bowed their heads in prayer, then traveled in procession to Foxridge Farm to say goodbye to a fellow operator who died while on the job.
Martin Braden, 47, was killed August 24 while working on highway 85 north of Brighton.
Investigators say a Ford F-250 pickup truck driven by Dana Beales, 61, of Fort Lupton, slammed into the back of State Trooper Scott Redrey’s squad car and shoved it off the highway. The pickup then hit tow truck operator Martin Braden as he was sweeping debris from a previous accident off the pavement.
“Martin was a good man,” said longtime friend Dave Busha. “He worked for C & J towing for 10 years. He loved his job.”
Busha placed Braden’s ashes in his tow truck and led the procession from Gateway High up to Colfax Avenue, then eastward to Foxridge Farm.
“He loved his family,” Busha said. “They’re taking it very hard. You get up every morning knowing that you’re never going to see him again.”
David Phillips of St. Vrain Towing told 7NEWS that he didn’t know Braden personally, but felt compelled to take part in the procession.
“The tow truck community is a very tight knit organization,” Phillips said. “And when something like this happens, it affects every driver.”
Phillips said he wanted to draw attention to a state law requiring motorists to provide a lane’s width of buffer, if possible, when emergency vehicles are working along the highway.
“Probably 70 to 80 percent of them don’t move over,” he said. “They’re concentrating on where they’re going or their own lives. They’re in a hurry and they’re just not paying attention.”
“We just need to get the public’s attention,” added Gregg Grisham of Extreme Towing. “We’re out here doing a job that’s very dangerous, as it is, and they’re adding to that danger many times over.”
Grisham says Braden previously worked for Extreme Towing. “He was always willing to help you,” he said, “always willing to go the extra mile.”
Trooper Rendfrey, who was injured in the accident, also took part in the procession and memorial service. “He wanted to show support for Martin’s family,” said Trooper Duane Lewis of the Colorado State Patrol.
Rendfrey declined to talk to 7NEWS.
Lewis said the State Patrol took part in the procession because they have a kinship with the tow truck drivers.
“They’re out there on the sides of the roads with us,” Lewis said. “They’re dealing with crashes in the same type of traffic that we’re in every day. So they face the risk as well.”
Lewis said motorists need to do a better job of paying head to the law requiring drivers move over a lane when they see emergency vehicles operating along the road, or slow down to a reasonable speed.
“That includes law enforcement vehicles, fire trucks, CDOT equipment or tow trucks,” Lewis said.
The trooper said the message from the State Patrol and the tow truck drivers is the same. It’s safety.
“We just want to make sure that everyone gets home to their families every night,” Lewis said.