A crowd of first-responders, tow truck drivers, construction and highway workers viewed a different kind of funeral at Randy’s Towing & Hauling in St. Jacob.
“I think we had really good participation,” said Randy Capelle, owner of Randy’s Towing & Hauling. “I think the awareness will be there for people.”
At 2 p.m. July 12, a crowd gathered over prayer and song to view a colorful, ceremonial casket that has been making its way throughout the nation, reminding people of its message: “Slow down, move over.”
The casket, which is painted red, white and blue and has numerous murals depicting the brave people who work on the nation’s highways, is named Spirit. It is apart of the American Towman Spirit Ride and represents all of the “Spirit Riders,” or people killed by passing vehicles while working on roadways.
The Spirit Ride is an event used to raise awareness for the Move Over Law, which requires drivers to slow down and move over when approaching flashing lights. Capelle was asked to represent the movement in St. Jacob.
Capelle has a close experience with the Move Over Law. He came close to losing his life while working on a road. A drunk driver hit him, cracking his ribs and leaving a side mirror-shaped bruise. Capelle has also had two of his trucks hit by careless drivers.
“Hopefully, people will slow down and move over,” Capelle said. “I appreciate all the Illinois State Police and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and everybody that came out on behalf of this cause.”
Mike Corbin and Ilce Corbin, representatives from the Spirit Ride, led a ceremony in front of a color guard from Scott Air Force Base and the Veterans of Foreign War Post 976 in Troy. A few guest speakers from the local community also shared their own tragedies associated with highway deaths. They asked their community to consider families of the workers who may never get to come home.
“We just hope that by raising more awareness of this that people will pay attention. Because these men working and women want to return home everyday to their loved ones,” said Josie Beard, wife of Dennis Beard, a Pocahontas construction worker killed in 2012.
The family of Kyle Deatherage, a state trooper struck and killed by a tractor-trailer in 2012, was also present at the ceremony. Kenny Deatherage, Kyle’s brother, said that he and his family beg the public to do anything they can to move over when they see flashing lights. The Deatherage family also works to spread awareness in Kyle’s memory.
“Because behind every single car, behind every uniform, is a family that is very deeply effected,” Kenny Deatherage said.
The Spirit Ride has been compared to the legendary Pony Express by its co-founder American Towman Magazine. The Pony Express was created to expedite mail delivery in 1860. It had almost 200 relief stations from Missouri through to California. There are over 200 relay points for the Spirit Ride and thousands of tow trucks and other emergency vehicles are involved in the various processions that carry the casket.
The Spirit Ride is scheduled through 2018. The procession left Randy’s Towing and Hauling at 7:30 a.m. July 13. The next stop on the ride was a St. Louis towing company. The Spirit Ride is a non-profit venture relying on donations from sponsors and transport service contributed by towing companies.