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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingAugust 15 - August 21, 2018

Trapped in Rollover

0 29e49by Jim "Buck" Sorrenti

White's Gulf County Wrecker Service in Panama City, Florida, was founded by the Richard "Pop" White in 1949. Pop's son Richard "Spud" White followed in his footsteps, and his son Richard "Bubba" White and daughter Hassie White represent the third generation in this family business.

On Sept. 3, the Florida Highway Patrol called Whites to respond to an accident that happened in Walton County. One semi had rear-ended another, due to faulty equipment on the semitrailer that was struck. The semi that hit the other went down an embankment. The driver was trapped in his rig down a ravine.

"The tractor-trailer was rolled down an embankment, up against the tree," Bubba said. "The pine tree pretty well crushed the cab. The truck rolled over and trapped the driver inside the cab for more than an hour."

Rescue workers could not get their equipment down to where he was trapped.

Bubba responded with his 2016 Peterbilt 388 twin-steer with a Century 1075 75-ton rotator, operator Eric Miele responded in the 2016 Pete/Century 70-ton rotator, operator Bobby Matthews in a 2015 Pete/9055 50-ton heavy, operator Barney Barnes in a Chevy 6500 panel truck that is their "MOD support vehicle," and Camille 'Skip' Webb with a Trail-Eze 53' trailer and Monk, an extra worker.

When Bubba arrived, he had to back his twin-steer rotator down the ravine to be close enough to reach the semi. He and his crew hooked to the semi and Bubba dragged it to where emergency officials could cut open the cab of the truck with assistance.

Using the controls, Bubba lifted the cab up to give other first responders access to the driver. Bubba knew all of the cutting points on the truck's cab and instructed emergency officials on where to cut.

"We had to pretty well back down an embankment so we could get close enough to it, get the booms run out to lift the cab up, pull the steering column up, where they could get the Jaws of Life in and cut the cab apart," Bubba said. "We had to cut the seat apart with a Sawzall, and we had to spread the cab open to get the man's feet out, where they could free him to get him to the helicopter."

Once they got the driver out, he was airlifted to Bay Medical Center with serious injuries; he did survive the crash.

Bubba and the crew then dealt with the trailers.

"It was a double trailer rig and they separated the load," Hassie said.

The 70-ton rotator lifted the truck and the 50-ton Century heavy hauled the trailers with a fifth-wheel attachment. The roadways were re-opened and the vehicles were transported to White's yard in Panama City.

Walton County Fire Rescue and Argyle Volunteer Fire Department gave Bubba total credit for saving this man's life.

"It was a team effort," Bubba said, "all working against the clock not only to free the man, but to clear the interstate which was shut down for about four hours."

Author's note:
During this writing Bubba, Hassie and the White's crew were running around the clock non-stop dealing with Hurricane Irma and it's aftermath. Through it all, Hassie kept in touch to help us put this together. This is an abbreviated version; look for the whole story in an upcoming issue of AT.

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Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim "Buck" Sorrenti at; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!
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