Family of killed tow truck operator calling for stricter 'move over, slow down laws'

The family of a tow truck driver hit and killed earlier this week while on the job is calling on lawmakers to try and make roads safer for first responders.

Joey Masterson was killed early Tuesday morning on I-5 in Milton after he was hit by a semi-truck while working on the side of the road. The driver was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Since his death, his family, friends and other first responders have placed a cross, safety vest and flowers where the 49-year-old father was killed.

A loss they hope serves as a reminder to drivers to slow down when they see a tow truck, or any other car pulled over.

"He was a very caring man, he loved just about everybody," Joey's father, Bill Masterson said. 

Being a tow truck operator wasn’t just a job for Joey, it was a profession he loved and genuinely enjoyed, according to his employer, Fife Towing President Philip Wallner.

"It's not just about loading and unloading cars or pickup-- it's about taking care of the customer, and Joe is very good at that," Wallner said.

His family knew the dangers Joey faced every day – but never thought this day would come.

WSP: Tow truck driver fatally struck by semi on I-5 near Milton; semi driver suspected of DUI

Troopers are investigating after a tow truck driver was fatally struck on I-5 near Milton on Tuesday morning. 

"I never thought this would ever happen because he was so self-conscious where his surroundings was, and for him to go out the way he did, there's some mixed feelings for me," Masterson said.

While his family is devastated by their loss, this is just the beginning of their fight for justice.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's [the suspect] done me wrong, he's done my boy wrong. He killed the precious thing in my life and I want him prosecuted," Masterson said.

This is the sixth deadly crash in Thurston and Piece Counties so far this 2022.

"Even one is too many," said Washington State Trooper Robert Reyer.

Reyer says the entire first responder community is hurting-- many of the Troopers knew and worked closely with Joey Masterson.

"He was a very caring and wonderful man. We care for the family.  We care for his coworkers here at Fife Towing, we will always be there for them and we will continue to try to protect them the best we can," Reyer said.  

Officials want to make it very clear that tow trucks are also emergency vehicles too, and you should move over and slow down at least 10 miles below the posted speed limit, that’s the law.

Fife Towing now hopes his death is not vain – but rather a call to action, for lawmakers and drivers.  

"Everyone can move over and slow down," Wallner said. "If every one of us can do that, then someone's life is going to be saved."

Joey’s family says there needs to be more signage guiding drivers on what to do in these cases.

As his coworkers mourn their loss, they say they will continue to advocate for bills like SB 5907, which allows tow truck drivers to use blue lights in addition to red flashers when providing roadside assistance, to be passed.

The public hearing for the bill is scheduled for Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. 

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