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Tower Down: 10.18.19 (CA)


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Man Fatally Crushed by Tow Truck in Otay Mesa



A man was fatally crushed by a tow truck Friday at an Otay Mesa used-car lot.


The accident in the 7300 block of Pogo Row was reported shortly before 11:30 a.m., according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.


The victim, whose name was not immediately available, died at the scene of the accident just north of Brown Field Municipal Airport, police said.


According to reports from the scene, the man suffered fatal injuries when he got pinned between the frame and bed of a tow rig.




Firefighters tried to free the victim, whose head was trapped between a tow truck’s frame and flatbed in Otay Mesa on Friday


A man died after he ended up trapped between the frame and flatbed of a tow truck Friday in Otay Mesa, according to San Diego police and fire officials.


The victim, said to be in his 50s, was working on his tow truck when the bed of his vehicle fell and trapped his head, San Diego police Sgt. Matthew Botkin said.


About 11:20 a.m., police and fire crews responded to a call from an auto yard on Pogo Row just north of Brown Field Municipal Airport. There they found the victim, and worked to free him.


However, by about 11:45 a.m., officials reported that the man died, San Diego Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Mónica Muñoz said.


Fire Capt. Chris Sovay told OnScene TV that the victim was found between the truck’s hydraulic system and the flatbed, and he had what appeared to be “a crush-type injury.”


Sovay said heavy equipment will be brought in to free the victim’s body.


It was not immediately clear what led the man to become trapped.


A spokesman for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, said the agency had been notified of the fatal accident at a vehicle wrecking yard, and it is investigating.




UPDATED: 10.20.19


The victim, who friends identified as Mario Lopez, was apparently working on his tow truck when the truck pinned and crushed him, killing him instantly. The incident happened just before noon on Friday. 

“It’s really sad because we all work together by my friend’s yard. We were all joking around and talking, and I just got here and I heard what happened to him,” said Tommy Mikhilo, victim’s friend.

Friends told NBC 7 that Lopez was an experienced mechanic. He was working on his tow truck at a salvage lot he owned with a friend on Pogo Road. Some of his friends had just seen him earlier Friday morning.

“He was a very nice guy. He was always laughing, joking around. Very nice guy, he don't deserve it,” said Mikhilo

Friends at the scene also described Lopez as a hard-working man who would bend over backwards for friends. NBC 7 also learned from friends that Lopez was married and recently adopted two of his grandchildren. 

RESOURCE LINK with video


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The area where this accident occurred is minutes from the International Border to Mexico. Around San Diego's Brown Field (airport) there are dozens of one operator companies and tow trucks that support the dismantling, parts and salvage yards there. I've checked with all of the companies that I do training with and everyone I work with are OK there. This accident is a solid reminder that no matter what the tower's genre is, all steps to ensure safety have to be taken to prevent accidents like this. If I can learn any more information, I'll pass it on.Christine and I send our prayers to the San Diego tower killed. So sad.     R.

Randall C. Resch

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While this is likely a scrap hauler we do not differentiate when a Tow Truck is involved. Anyone that is injured or killed in the operation of a Tow Truck is a tower. This serves  as a reminder to each and everyone of us as too the dangers a tow operator/wrecker driver face each and every day.. We must stress to everyone in the industry the dangers as we all can see how this could have if one placed themselves in this situation. Dump Truck drivers as well as mechanics have done this as well, even though they all know the dangers. Our thoughts will be with those grieving this evening!

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Now that the San Diego fatality is known, I’m sharing some important information on this topic. A few years back, I covered this topic after an earlier fatality occurred when a tow operator was killed clearing snow between a raised carrier’s deck rails. I went into my fatality stats where I list three other instances of the same “crushing” fatality (South Dakota, May, 2009, Montana, Nov. 2016, and in Illinois, Sept, 2018). Soon after, while attending an American Towman tow show, I saw a safety device designed and built as a means to prevent crushing injuries like these. 


So, I did some early morning research to refresh this topic and I’m providing a safety message for tow operators working on the beds of raised carriers. Here’s a great link you should be aware of:


Link:  https://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib091806.html


OSHA’s 29 CFR 1926.600(a)(3)(i)  has specific narrative directed to the construction trade stating, “in construction settings, requires that dump bodies shall be fully lowered or blocked when being repaired or when not in use


A second part of section 29 CFR 1926.601(b)(10),“… requires that in construction settings, trucks with dump bodies shall be equipped with positive means of support, permanently attached, and capable of being locked in position to prevent accidental lowering of the body while maintenance or inspection work is being done.”


While OSHA’s narrative isn’t specific (yet) to flatbed carrier designs, there’s forward thinking to be aware of the requirement when narrative refers to “dump bodies”. In my way of thinking, a carrier’s deck technically works as a dump body. If my way of thinking is that way … so can that of an OSHA inspector


Here are the links of two bed safety locks as mentioned above. Although they’re pricey (approximately $1,250), what’s someone’s life worth?


Emerson Safety Wedge Lock




Dump Lock




If your company has flatbed carriers in the fleet, this the proper safety item to have in your shop. FACT: A length of 4x4, or a block of wood will and not does not provide adequate protection against slipping out and crushing a worker. FYI... I invite you to go to OSHA's website and review this information, to include several photos of proper and improper safety at the shop level.        R

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Randall C. Resch

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This is very tragic.  Saying prayers for Mario Lopez's family, friends, and co-workers. 

Randall thank you for sharing updates, and safety info.

Contact: Doreen Aragona - Integrated Leasing - Office: 800-551-4854 Ext 20

Email: Doreen@integratedleasing.com  Cell 516-852-5740



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