Northbound & Down

0 2ec9cby Jim “Buck” Sorrenti

On May 21, 2019, I was driving a box truck and was stuck in what seemed like an endless line of traffic backed up on I-287 northbound. I was heading north to the New York Thruway.

As traffic slowly moved along, I could see the silhouette of the extended boom of a rotator and an overturned tractor-trailer on its side. The boom proudly stated Big Tow Inc.—a familiar sight on the roads of northern New Jersey and Orange County, New York.

As soon as I drove the box truck back to my buddy’s yard, I reached out for two of Big Tow’s operators and owner/SVP Monika Fijor.

Husband and wife Ricardo and Monika Fijor are the dynamic duo and driving force of Big Tows Inc., founded in 1998 in Spring Valley, New York. They have an additional location in Ramsey, New Jersey.

“The original call was for road service at the Pilot Truck Stop on Route 17 South in Mahwah, New Jersey,” Monika said. “The truck had an accelerator pedal issue and the driver was limping his truck into the truck stop. The second call was that the truck just took off and the driver could not gain control overturning around 287 mile marker 67 at the flyover ramp.”

Ricardo was the recovery supervisor and operated the 2018 Peterbilt 389 twin-steer/Century 75-ton rotator. Monika handled scene documentation and oversaw needed equipment. Their son Dylan provided manual labor with rigging, cleanup and organizing all rigging back to its location.

Heavy operator Jeremy Honey handled the 2015 Peterbilt 389/50-ton rotator; Louis Quintuna worked the 2017 Peterbilt 389/Vulcan V-100 50-ton heavy and the 2016 John Deere excavator G75; Kevin Shapirro handled the 2019 Hino flatbed and roll-off containers; Santiago Paunta operated the 2010 Freightliner Sprinter support vehicle and cut guardrails, fencing and pieces off the trailer to make it road worthy and safe for transport; Nikolas Bouzeas handled the excavator and the 2015 Bobcat skid-steer; and Josue Gonzales provided manual labor.

“The tractor-trailer overturned to its right side coming to a stop on its roof. The cargo was crates of 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola,” Monika said. “The tractor sustained heavy damage to its roof and right side. There was no fuel leaked, only oil from engine. Fuel tanks were about half full.

“The trailer sidewall and roof blew out,” she said, “spilling cargo down into the embankment; most of the cargo exploded making a sweet, sticky and muddy recovery. The front corner of the trailer was the only part holding the trailer from continuing down the embankment.”

Ricardo boomed the 75-ton over the front and rigged the tractor only to separate it from trailer and upright. He also ran the drag winch to the tandems to hold the trailer from coming free and dropping down further. Honey parked the 50-ton in front of the tractor and rigged to upright.

Gonzalez worked and freed the jaws of the fifth-wheel. Quintuna and Paunta cut the guardrail and fence, used the excavator to pull posts and clear a path to recover the trailer. The tractor was lifted and uprighted with care to avoid further damage or fuel spill.

After it was uprighted, the tractor was prepared and transported back to Big Tows garage in Ramsey. With the tractor out of the way, Honey hooked the 50-ton up to the front of the trailer and Ricardo hooked the 75-ton up to the rear of the trailer. Working together, both wreckers brought the trailer back to the pavement to be uprighted.

After it was uprighted, the pieces hanging were cut off and the rest strapped and secured for transport back to their shop in Ramsey. The trailer was transported by Honey using his 50-ton rotator.

“The cargo was badly damaged, dirty with mud and more then 3/4 of the load exploded [or was] leaking,” Monika said. “We used two excavators to pick from the hill and put on roadway and the Bobcat to scoop and put into containers for disposal. Where excavators would not reach it took manual labor and muscle from our crew to pick up and put the load where excavators could transfer it to the roadway.”

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