Tow-truck drivers pay tribute to young colleague killed in rollover (8 photos)

Friends, family and dozens of fellow tow-truck drivers gathered at the Innisfil ONroute, Wednesday, to mourn the death of Devon King, the 21-year-old man who died in hospital following Monday’s vehicle rollover on Highway 400. 

A makeshift memorial dedicated to the Newmarket man has been set near the scene of the deadly wreck. 

King, who was driving the truck and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the vehicle and landed on the grass following Monday’s crash, which happened shortly before 8:30 a.m. 

Earlier this week, police said King lost control of the vehicle while trying to make a lane change and get into the ONroute facility where it entered the ditch and flipped. 

King’s girlfriend, 28-year-old Sara Avila of Wasaga Beach, was a passenger in the vehicle when the crash happened. She was wearing her seatbelt and sustained minor injuries. 

Avila told BarrieToday that, if nothing else, she wants people to know that he thought of her in that split-second moment.

“He stuck his arm across the seat and held me back as best he could,” she said, tears streaming down her face. “My face bounced once off the dash, but it may have been much worse.

“He is my hero and I miss him so much.”

Avila said she and King had been together for about a year. Just this past week, she had professed how deeply she loved him.

“There was a seven-year difference between us and he was always trying to prove he was mature enough to be with me,” she said. “I realized this past few weeks just how much I loved him and now I’ve lost him.

I hope he can see how many people loved him here today.”

More than 100 tow-truck drivers made the trek to the Innisfil ONroute parking lot — many representing several different companies and from as far away as Brampton — to pay their respects. 

Taylor Sowerby, who works for Luxury Towing out of Richmond Hill, said King was one of his best friends.

Sowerby told BarrieToday that he had talked to King not long before the crash, as they were going to “meet up for a coffee and a smoke” before starting their shifts Monday morning. 

“He was a jokester, always trying to put a smile on everyone’s faces,” Sowerby said. “Even with the dark skies we’re having, with COVID-19 being here and it being slow across the board for everyone, he would try and make every driver laugh as best he could.”

Sowerby and others erected a makeshift memorial on the grass at the Innisfil ONroute, which is located in the southbound lanes of Highway 400, just a few minutes south of Barrie. 

Acting Sgt. Dan Hunter, with the OPP’s Highway Safety Division, said on Monday that the preliminary investigation had revealed that the driver was not wearing a seatbelt. Neither speed nor drugs or alcohol was a factor in the crash, he said 

King lost control while trying to make a lane change to get into the ONroute facility, where the truck entered the ditch and flipped.

“It was just a lane change and a loss of control,” Hunter said. 

Jason Coward was the second person on the scene after the crash. Although Coward said he didn’t know King well, he tried to comfort the injured young man until paramedics arrived.

“When I saw him lying there, I knew it wasn’t good,” Coward told BarrieToday. “I just told him to stay calm and that help was coming, but he was having a really hard time breathing and was in rough shape.

He stopped breathing a couple of times and then came back around.

“It’s really sad to hear that he’s gone,” he added. 

A tow-truck driver himself, Coward was in a crash several years ago and says he often hears the negative things people say about the workers in the industry. But he hopes they also remember who they call when they need help on the roads.

“People talk s–t about us all the time, but we’re usually the first ones on the scene when they need assistance,” he said. “What if it was your kid or your spouse who needed help? We’re here and we try to help.

It’s dangerous out here.

“I got crushed at Essa Road eight years ago, spent a year and a half in a wheelchair and was told I wouldn’t walk again,” Coward added. “Two years ago, I got back to work because I love this job and I love helping people so they’re not stranded in the middle of nowhere.”

Sowerby echoed those sentiments and hopes people have some compassion instead of being judgmental.

“At the end of the day, this is somebody’s son, a friend of mine and a brother to everyone here,” Sowerby said. “We’re not out here to blow through stop signs, blow across highways or out here being gangster like everyone paints us out to be.

We’re out here doing our job in our trucks — our office — to make sure people are alive and get home OK.

“That’s what Devon was doing and he wasn’t speeding or being reckless,” he added. “It was an accident; they happen whether we like it or not.

He was a good guy and I hope he is looking down at how loved he was and how a part of the industry he was.”

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