Tow truck driver killed while assisting disabled vehicle on Thruway

AMSTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The fatal accident on the Thruway Monday morning has groups calling attention to New York State’s Move Over Law.

A tractor trailer hit and killed a tow truck driver early Monday morning as he assisted a disabled car near Canajoharie. The tow truck driver was identified as James Homkey, 51, of Canajoharie. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Those who knew him urge drivers to leave room for roadside vehicles.

“It’s been a tragic loss for the department,” Canajoharie Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief Frank Nestle said.

In addition to working part-time as a tow truck driver, Homkey worked as a firefighter with the Canajoharie Fire Department. His tragic death was felt across the community.

“The guy would give the shirt off his back to anybody whether it was here at the firehouse, out on the street,” Nestle said. “You want more people like him.”

Police said Homkey was loading a disabled car around 6 a.m. when a tractor trailer struck him.

“The wind that they create is unbelievable,” Empire State Towing and Recovery Association Pres. Tom Brennan said.

Brennan works for T&T Towing, and he knows the dangers of the highway. Too often, he said, cars leave little room for workers despite the state’s Move Over Law.

The law states drivers must move over when approaching tow trucks, snow plows or any crew working roadside.

“No, people don’t move over. We see it all the time,” he said. “It’s sad. We want to go home to our families at the end of the night. And we need the motoring public to help us with that; to give us that extra room to do our job on the side of the highway.”

Brennan also knew Homkey. Both he and Chief Nestle urge drivers to move over and slow down. They said it may have saved Homkey’s life.

“For us out there, the New York State Thruway is one of the most dangerous roads in this state,” Nestle said.

Police said the driver of the tractor trailer worked for Performance Food Group of Virginia. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

The crash remains under investigation.