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Tower Down - 08.05.16 (PA) "Updated 02.01.23"

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This is a repost of a Tower Down from August 5, 2016:


Tow truck Driver Struck & Killed on I-81 Dies (PA)


Driver was responding to an earlier bus crashSOUTH ABBINGTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - The driver of a tow truck was seriously injured Friday morning when a big rig slammed into the back of his truck while he was responding to an earlier accident.

The driver, as yet unidentified, was one of two tow trucks responding to an earlier accident involving a bus about 4:00 a.m. Friday.

The initial accident involved a Greyhound bus with 49 passengers on board. The driver tells Eyewitness News his bus was struck by a pickup truck while in the southbound lanes of Interstate 81 near South Abbington. He says the pickup blew a tire, and hit the side of the bus before flipping over.

Two people inside that pickup were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Two Duchniks tow trucks responded to the initial accident and that's when the operator of one of the trucks was seriously injured when a big rig truck slammed into the back of his flat-bed tow truck.

A Pennsylvania State Patrol trooper tells us when they arrived they found the driver of the tow truck underneath the big rig.

He was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.


SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — A tow truck operator is in critical condition after being struck during a multi-vehicle crash Friday on Interstate 81.

David Duchnik was taken to Geisinger Community Medical Center, where he remained Friday, hospital spokeswoman Denise Rader said.

Mr. Duchnik was on I-81 South in South Abington Twp. at 5:30 a.m. helping clear an earlier crash, state police at Dunmore said.

A tractor trailer, driven by Johnny Coelho, of Framingham, Massachusetts, veered into the crash scene and struck a pickup truck, pushing the truck into Mr. Duchnik, state police said. State police are investigating.


SOUTH ABINGTON TOWNSHIP -- As a tow truck driver was trying to clear wreckage from a crash Friday morning in Lackawanna County, he was hit by an oncoming tractor trailer in the exact same area.

The first crash happened when a pickup truck and Greyhound bus crashed in the southbound lanes near the Clarks Summit exit of Interstate 81.

About an hour later, a tractor trailer slammed into two tow trucks that were called to the first crash. One of the drivers is seriously hurt.

The tower who was hit is David Duchnik of Scott Township. He's a newlywed and runs the towing business with his dad. His family says he is in critical condition following the crash Friday morning.

It's a situation that also hits home for others in the towing business.

Towers get all kinds of calls at all kinds of hours. The call Mike Milewski got early in the morning is the worst kind.

"The incident this morning, you know, it's one of your friends, and you just want to do the right thing. You want to get there and make sure he's OK."

Milewski heard from a father who had just watched a tractor trailer pin his son against the family's tow truck.

David Duchnik Jr. was severely injured while he and his dad were responding to an earlier crash on Interstate 81 near Clarks Summit. Duchnik's father pulled him from the wreckage.

It's a fear realized by the network of towing companies in Lackawanna County.

"When you see them, you got to get over, and these people don't do it," said Ken Rohland of Moletsky's Towing. "I've personally had experiences where I've almost been blown off my feet on (Interstate) 81 and it's scary. My heart goes to the Duchnik family, and I wish them all the best in this time of need."

We first met David Duchnik earlier this year when he talked to us about a crash he responded to.

State police say this time, David and his dad did everything they could to protect themselves. There were lights on their trucks and they were wearing reflective gear.

Michael Milewski sits on the board for the Pennsylvania Towing Association. He says close calls happen all the time on highways, and it is against the law.

"People aren't aware of the 'slow down, move over law,' and it's very important that we get that out there. It affects fire, police, ambulance, tow trucks, PennDOT, and everyone just needs to make that aware."

According to state police, the tractor trailer that hit David Duchnik was far enough away from the crash scene but then drifted toward the tow truck for an unknown reason.

There is no word yet on whether the driver from Massachusetts will face charges.

RESOURCE LINK with News Video

UPDATE ADDED: 08/08/16

Update: The tow-truck driver injured on the scene of a crash on Interstate 81 Friday died this morning in the Trauma Unit at Geisinger Community Medical Center, according to a release issued by Lackawanna County Coroner Timothy Rowland. David L. Duchnik, Age 29 of Scott Twp, was fatally injured when a tractor-trailer veered into the crash scene in South Abington Twp., striking a pickup and pushing it into the young tow-truck operator, according to state police.

Previous Report:

David Duchnik, 29, had celebrated his birthday the night before he got a call to clean up a crash on Interstate 81 before dawn Friday morning.

About 5:30 a.m., a tractor-trailer veered into the crash scene in South Abington Twp., striking a pickup and pushing it into the young tow-truck operator, according to state police. Geisinger Community Medical Center on Sunday night reported Mr. Duchnik remained in critical condition. However, as an organ donor, doctors were using machines to preserve his internal organs, according to his father, also named David Duchnik.

Friends and family waited in agony, knowing that, although he was still clinically alive, he was never coming back.

A third-generation tow-truck operator, who was in line to one day take over the Duchniks’ family business, the younger Mr. Duchnik was to celebrate his second wedding anniversary with his wife, Marisa, later this month. The two had just built a new home in Scott Twp., and were planning to move in within the next few weeks.

“He’s never going to see the house that he designed, that he was so proud of,” his father said.

Over the telephone his voice sounded frail and exhausted Sunday afternoon. At that point, he had been at the hospital three days watching every minute pass in grief. He had been at the crash site and watched his son get hit and listened to what doctors explained to be a severe spinal injury, he said. The elder Mr. Duchnik knew at that moment out on the highway that his boy was gone.

Speaking from the hospital waiting room, he said about 100 friends and family had stayed close by, sleeping on chairs and on the floor.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” hospital staffers told him. “Usually, by now, everyone would have picked up and left.”

State police are investigating what led the Framingham, Massachusetts, truck driver Johnny Coelho, 64, to cross into a closed lane on I-81 south and plow into the scene striking four vehicles in its path.

Troopers had parked cruisers with lights flashing in the closed lane and had been directing traffic away from the scene, state police said. It was unclear Sunday night whether Mr. Coelho would be charged.

Mr. Duchnik said news of his son’s injury spread quickly, especially among the tight-knit, interstate community of tow truck operators.

“Everybody knows who he is. He was well liked,“ Mr. Duchnik said of his son. “When somebody gets killed in a towing accident, they come from all over the country.”



Edstowing said:

My buddy had to lift the truck off of the operator with his rotator this morning. Such a tragedy... I understand that the State Police left the scene before the original pick up was recovered? That sucks.... Our thoughts & prayers are with the Duchnik family.


Hook206 said:

They say that Operators of the Big Rigs are supposed to be professional drivers!! well why is that these so called Professional Drivers are the ones that are hitting our Tow Truck Operators on the side of the roads?

When I was a Tow Truck Operator who used to pickup those broke down big rigs, The operators would say to me that they always slow down and move over for us Tow Truck Operators working along the side of highways.

Well if they are slowing down and moving over, Then why are these accidents still happening?



Michael McGovern said:

Notice the time: 4:00  a.m.  Statistically, a much higher percentage of drivers are distracted or impaired between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.  Tow truck drivers working roadside should take extra precautions during those hours.With regard to the MOSD laws, I continue to be dubious about whether they have any beneficial effect.  This incident is a case in point.  Pennsylvania has a MOSD law.  Truck drivers who are drugged, sleep-deprived, or otherwise impaired, could care less about complying with a MOSD law.  Don't rely on the MOSD laws to protect you.  Protect yourself.  Use digital message boards and cones on EVERY roadside job, especially from dusk to dawn.

I pray for a speedy recovery for this tow truck driver.
Michael McGovern


mooresbp said:

Our thoughts and prayers to the driver, family and friends


wycorvetteguy said:

Semi drivers in the past were professional drivers. Now most of them are just steering wheel holders and nothing more. They are putting these folks on the road 2 weeks out of school with. NO real life experience. Just book training and a few hours behind the wheel. This is the reason behind so many accidents. I know a bunch of True professional truck drivers, however they are getting hard to find. The MOSD laws are beneficial, but like any other laws you have to watch for the self involved morons that don't have a clue and feel they are above them. Prayers go out to the family of the tow operator, and the owners of the company involved. Maybe the driver of the semi truck will slow down any pay attention from now on. God forbid if they ever let them drive truck again.


jamesaroach said:

I was on interstate 40 last night around mile mark 173 in Arkansas working a flat call.  Those big 18 wheeler are mostly a bunch of chumps.. there are a few goods one who will slow down and move over.   I was warning the trucker on channel 19, to move over and slow down around mile mark 173 and one trucker replied, I am going the speed limit, not understanding slow down mean slow down below speed limit and move over to pass an emergency vehicle.   On Arkansas highways hardly anyone slowdown and move over per the law, I wish state troopers whould hand out ticket till people learn it is the law


Notice from David Duchnik August 6, 2016:
My son did not make it today miss him dearly is going to be an organ donor or maybe he can save six or seven more life thank you for all the prayers


EdsTowing said:

I was just posting that I was told Dave passed this morning.


NJringleader said:

Very Sad, My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.


TowMonster said:

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families involved.


rreschran said:

To Duchnik Towing and the Duchnik family, we're sending to you our prayers and condolences to you in your loss of David.


Tow_Zone said:

I had a call last night, the person who is not a member was angry with me because he thought it was insensitive that I would keep the topic "Be Extra Care on the Roadways this Weekend!" which I had made just hours before the tragic loss of a towers life. I explained:

"It takes a piece of me every time a tow operator is stuck and killed. I often think about your safety, their safety as well as my own. Someone asked just how I knew there would be a tragedy in the industry this weekend just hours before the collision in PA. To be honest I had just gotten done running the numbers and it isn't a good weekend."

The numbers show another tower being struck before this next week is out, or within days. Once again as our Thoughts and Prayers go out to the Duchnik family in a time of loss. I ask that each and everyone, use extra precautions. We cannot prevent every incident but we can effect the numbers and we have this year. Look at how many towers we have lost this year in comparison to years past.

Do not let this tragic loss of a young life taken way to soon go without full recognition. Make sure every tower you know is aware the industry lost a professional member doing everything right and even working along side his dad. Feel their pain and sadness, don't let it be another number or another name to place on the wall. I am sure knowing the area, tow trucks will come for miles and miles more than 100 trucks that will be in the parade next month in Chattanooga as we Celebrate 100 years of towing. Lets see so many tow trucks of all sizes that this one tragic event makes the national news. If it impacts one driver and one driver takes notice. By the numbers that may have been the one driver that would have taken another life of a fellow tow truck operator. Send all the trucks you can spare and even those you cannot spare. Spread the word far and near. We are a caring industry and we come together in times of tragedy. We are all a strong towing family at this time, as well as strong competitors most of the time. Gods Speed

Lest we forget them on the long road home


The tow operator stood and faced his Maker, which must always come to air.
He hoped his chains were left behind and he hadn't brought them on to bare.
"Step forward now, wrecker driver how shall I deal with you?"
Have you always rendered aid? To your Maker, have you been true?
The tower, with dirt on his hands, said "No sir, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who drive wreckers can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays and at times my talk was rough,
and sometimes I've taken people cars, because life is just that tough.
But I never took a penny, that wasn't mine to keep.
Though I logged a lot of hours when the bills just got too deep.
And I never passed by a cry for help though at times I had little to gain,
and sometimes, please forgive me, I could do little more than feel their pain.
I know I don't deserve a place among the people here.
They only wanted me around in their worst of moments there.
But if you have a place for me here, well...it need not be too grand.
I never expected or had too much so if you don't...I'll understand."
There was silence all around the room where the saints respectfully stood.
As the tow operator waited quietly, for the judgment...bad or good.
"Step forward now, wrecker driver, you've borne your burdens well.
Come tow on heaven streets, You've done your time in hell."


EdsTowing said:

Ron there isn't anything wrong with your post. It's reality...the numbers don't lie. The timing is just the "Irony of Life" I always say...


Jefftow said:

I agree with Ed, Ron there's nothing wrong with that post and I know you agree with that or you'd have taken it down by now. Matter of fact, with your permission I'd like to copy it to my Facebook page.

RIP David and Godspeed to the Duchnik family and not to forget those who had to work his scene in attempts to save his life.


Michael McGovern said:

This news breaks my heart.  I am with Ron: "It takes a piece of me every time a tow operator is struck and killed."  Pray for the family and donate to the Survivor Fund.

This news also frustrates me because I grow weary of reading about these tragic incidents.  More and more I am becoming convinced that enacting "move over" laws and trying to educate the motoring public is absolutely futile.  Statistically, the move over laws have not resulted in any reduction in roadside fatalities since the first one was enacted over 10 years ago.  No, the answer seems to be in educating the towing industry in safer roadside practices.  I do not know anything about the Duchnik situation and I am in no way suggesting that he did not take all necessary precautions; however, I am aware of numerous other roadside incidents in which better training in roadside protocol might have avoided injury.

I worked roadside in a tow truck for many years.  I appreciate the danger and risk out there.  When I read these news stories I can't help but think, "There but for the Grace of God go I."  I will look forward to the day when there are no more such news stories and the Wall of the Fallen becomes an historical artifact.
Michael McGovern


LEMAR said:

Our thoughts & prayers are with the Duchnik family.


Boltz said:

Our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends and those involved.


5towman said:

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Duchnik family. No one should have to go through what they are right now.


Canadiantowman said:

Thoughts and prayers to family and friends, co-workers.


In Memory of NationalAutotow who said:

Nothing at all wrong with the post.

One comment I will make is that I will bet a lot of people do not realize that TowZone (Ron) actually serves on the Board of the ITRHFM and more especially the Survivors Fund.

When he talks about running the numbers,he doesn't do it because he enjoys it.

That position is a voluntary one. Just an FYI, Ron will expend considerable personal funds to be able to serve this industry in that capacity.

My bet is that most people that read this already know what I have stated. I have met Ron several times and I can honesty say he is a very selfless person.


TowZone said:

Thanks, I am a past I.T.R.H.F.M. board member. I was encouraged to run again, but lacked to number of votes to secure another 2 year term. I enjoyed being a part of the Museum Board, this was my second term the first lasted 3 years and the second for 2 terms. I try to encourage industry members to run for the position. Even if you don't have the number of votes to get elected at least you made the effort. I applaud even though who have considered taking the time of of their busy schedule to be more active in the industry.

I have never served on the survivor fund committee, I have honored a continuing pledge.


Blkwill said:

At a loss for words 

This is happing to often

My thoughts and prayer to the family and friends


Scott Burrows said:

With apologies to Elvis and all the others who recorded "Mansion over the Hilltop" I would edit the words like this, for our too-soon departed fellow tow operator:

I'm satisfied with just a couple of tows
A little silver and not much gold
But in that city where the rollbacks will shine
I want a gold one that's dad’s and mine!

I've got a wrecker, just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But DRIVE on streets that are purest gold


tommytowsr said:

my thoughts and prayers to the family as well.


cdntowguy said:

Deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and friends.

Steve in Ottawa


Wrecker2347 said:

Such a young life lost for doing something they loved there is not much to be said to help at this time but just to let you know that the whole brotherhood is thinking about you all....GOD SPEED PEACE....

Roger's Towing
386 Sugar Street
Marion, VA 24354


nybulldog said:

thoughts and prayers for the family and friends and may he rest in peace.



@EdsTowing @Michael McGovern @mooresbp @Roach's Roadside @Njringleader @rreschran

@LEMAR @Boltz @5towman @Canadiantowman @Blkwill @Scott Burrows @Tommytowsr

@cdntowguy @wrecker2347 @nybulldog


Updated August 8, 2016:

Investigation Continues into Deadly I-81 Crash


SOUTH ABINGTON TOWNSHIP --  Investigators are looking at several things when it comes to the deadly crash on Interstate 81 near Clarks Summit Friday.


Was there a problem with the truck? The driver? Many questions linger over what led up to the crash that took the life of tow truck operator David Duchnik Jr.


Authorities impounded the big rig and at last check were getting a search warrant in order to inspect the vehicle. The tractor trailer's driver would undergo questioning as well as drug and alcohol testing.


Some trucking companies, including Road Scholar in Dunmore, would immediately deal with the driver.


"If someone were involved in a serious accident you’re going to pull them out of the truck, for sure," said Jim Barrett of Road Scholar.


Barrett's Road Scholar trucks travel 8 million miles per year. Barrett insists safety is paramount to the operation and driver logs keep track how long they are behind the wheel.


"A driver is restricted. They have an 11 hour limit with 14 hour on duty status. I have no clue how long this fella was on the road," he said.


Newswatch 16 reached out to Pocono Logistic, the trucking company involved in Friday's deadly crash on Interstate 81 that killed tow truck operator David Duchnik Junior.


A spokesperson for the Stroudsburg area-based company would not comment other than to say it is cooperating with the investigation.


One look at the company's federal safety rating and we discovered its out of service rate is slightly above the national average at 21 percent. Records show just within the past year, a Pocono Logistic driver was caught lying on a time-log, two others were caught driving with suspended CDLs.


"They will find out what caused that issue, as tragic as it is, your heart has to go out for that family," added Barrett.

Pocono Logistic also tells Newswatch 16 the driver of the tractor-trailer was expected to be released from the hospital Monday.


State police said the man from Massachusetts complained of chest pain after the wreck Friday.

The investigation into the cause of the deadly wreck could take weeks.


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Today 05.25.22 David Duchnik "Duchniks Towing" added:


I change the two flags on the interstate today put up A new reflective vest and

cut the grass it’s been five years you’ll never be forgotten David L Duchnik







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  • 3 weeks later...

Dave Duchnik (Duchniks Towing) Posted: 06.10.22


Well my son David truck is all cleaned and ready for the Diesel Jam tomorrow it’s been in storage since he was killed. It has only been used once in a while to get it out on the road. I’m sure he would be proud that his truck is there to support the slow down move over law. His brother-in-law Jerrid will be driving it.


duchnik061022A.jpg duchnik061022B.jpg

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Today 02.01.23 Dave Duchnik wrote:


waiting to sign the bill to pass for blue lights on the back of tow trucks. It’s been a long road but they got it done in honor of David L Duchnik and several others. Let’s hope this works thank you, we will have a video and update of the ceremony at signing the bill.


The Bill was sponsored in early in 2022:


HARRISBURG – Legislation legalizing rear-facing blue lights for tow-truck operators will soon head to the governor’s desk, Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) said today.


“This bill could cut down on roadside accidents and save lives,” Mastriano said. “Multiple studies show blue lights attract more attention and are far more visible in hazardous weather conditions. We can’t let something as simple as failing to use brighter lights lead to more deaths.”


Mastriano sponsored Senate Bill 1123 earlier this year after a tow truck driver in his district said other states with blue lights laws reported fewer accidents.


Under current law, tow truck operators can only use flashing orange or yellow lights. Studies from the Texas Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan demonstrate that drivers routinely ignore the sight of these lights on the road, often resulting in fatal accidents.


“The flashing blue lights will no doubt give drivers more time to react, protecting both tow truck operators and the people in waiting in disabled vehicles on the side of the road,” Mastriano said. “It’s a simple fix and we shouldn’t delay action on it any longer.”


The legislation now awaits the governor’s signature.


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