‘Ride for Phil’ remembers tow truck operator killed during winter storm

A tow truck driver struck and killed by the driver of a snow plow near Arnprior during Monday’s storm is remembered as a loving father and hard worker who would do anything for anyone.

Phillip Smith, 33, was hit by the driver of a snowplow while trying to help a driver who was stuck along Highway 417 just west of Ottawa.

Ontario Provincial Police said the fatal collision happened just before 12:30 p.m. under the White Lake Road overpass after most of the nearly 50 centimeters of snow had fallen in the capital region.

On Thursday, about 100 members of Ottawa‘s towing community gathered to remember Smith and remind motorists to slow down and pull over for tow trucks and emergency vehicles.

The group gathered outside the Ottawa Baseball Stadium on Coventry Road before traveling in convoy on Highway 417 across town to the Canadian Tire Center in a memorial “Ride for Phil”.

Phillip Smith’s mother, Tryna Smith, left, comforts Duheme before the start of the “Ride for Phil” memorial in Ottawa. (Jean Delisle/Radio-Canada)

“It’s amazing, I can’t believe all the support for my son,” said Tryna Smith, who attended the ride with her other son Sabastian.

“I didn’t expect there to be so many people, but I guess they are part of the family,” Sabastian said.

Smith’s mother said the family appreciated all the support describing how much it would mean to her son.

“We love and miss you Phillip and we’re all going to be taking care of everyone, including all of your kids,” Tryna Smith said.

Phillip Smith leaves behind two young children, who also attended the event, and their mother Amanda Duheme.

“Not a day will go by that I don’t think of you. I will make sure your children remember you and how much you loved us, I promise you,” Duheme posted on his Facebook page after the death. of Smith.

Slow down and move

Smith worked for Canadian Towing Service and members of the towing community who witnessed the ride said that although the companies fight over business, they come together when tragedy strikes.

“We work for different companies, but at the end of the day, we have to stick together here, pay attention to each other for this exact reason,” said Junior Marc Latreille, who organized the hike.

Latreille, the owner of 613 Wrecked, said he hopes the ride not only pays tribute to Smith, but also raises awareness.

“Just take your time, change lanes, slow down, give us space to work. We want to go home with our families at the end of the day,” Latreille said.

Wayne Harris attended the memorial walk for Phillip Smith, whom he knew from his days as a tow truck operator. (Jean Delisle/Radio-Canada)

Wayne Harris, who has known Smith since he was a tow truck operator, said when the community loses a driver, it impacts everyone.

“You’re out there helping people and you’re putting your life on the line, you don’t know if you’re going home…it just shouldn’t have happened,” Harris said.

The Ontario Provincial Police said the investigation into the collision is continuing. The Department of Labor has been contacted and is also investigating.

Although they compete for business, tow truck operators said they come together when tragedy strikes. (Jean Delisle/Radio-Canada)

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