Area tow truck convoy escorts driver’s body to Aiken

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Aiken, SC (WJBF)- A somber homecoming today for the tow truck driver who died Thursday in a hit and run. His body was brought back from the GBI crime lab.

Jason Willis’s body was escorted from Atlanta Saturday morning by a convoy of tow trucks. I spoke to several people who said the towing community is close knit and this has hit them hard.

Ray Sutton III is Co Owner of Sutton’s Towing and Recovery from Dearing, Ga. He said the community is like a family.

“You know, we all kind of nip at each other and talk about each other and joke back and forth, but at the end of the day when something like this happens, it could very easily be us or a family member or a friend. And we take it pretty seriously,” said Sutton.

Dozens of CSRA tow trucks drove to Atlanta to escort Willis’s remains to Shellhouse Funeral Home in Aiken. People lined interstate exits to pay their respects.

Once they arrived, they gathered on the lawn to show support for Willis’s wife.

“We try to show our support, not only for the family, but for the company. You know, once you work together for so long and get that coercion, you know, you really build a strong bond.And yeah, you know it’s just, it’s hard to explain. It’s just, it’s family,” Sutton explained.

Willis was hit by an unknown driver early Thursday morning while he was loading a vehicle onto his truck.

All fifty states have a Move Over Law, requiring motorists to change lanes or slow down when an emergency worker is on the side of the road. One man says that he tries to stay vigilant when driving.

“Whenever I’m in traffic though, I try and drive and look in the distance and when you see any kind of flashing light, whether it’s the police or a yellow flashing light. I try to start slowing down immediately and start moving over,” said David Brooks.

In 2018, the SCDOT said 100 first responders are killed on roadways each year, 60 of those being tow truck drivers. Sutton said the community is sad at the loss of Willis, but angry as well. He said the Move Over Law is rarely followed and it puts lives in danger.

“Unfortunately the law, it’s not that it’s not enforced, it’s that people simply don’t want to take the thirty seconds of time in a day , you know, to care about our lives. To care about us on the side of the road,” said Sutton.

He also said that if people payed more attention and followed the law, it would save lives.

“Just thirty seconds is all it takes. Just get over, pass us, get back over. Thirty seconds and somebody would have a father today. Somebody would have a husband.”

A family member who didn’t want to go on camera said the family is very thankful for the support from the community.

The family will host a viewing on Sunday from 2-4 pm at the Shellhouse Funeral home in Aiken. The funeral will be Monday at 2 at NewSpring Church, also in Aiken.

CLICK HERE for the GoFundMe page that has been set up for the family.

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