Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas procession of tow trucks mourns fallen colleague

LARGO — Although they spend most of their time clearing the roads, about 50 tow truck drivers brought traffic to crawl Sunday as they held a funeral procession for a colleague who died last week.

A tow truck is not the most formal vehicle — it is a working machine — but dozens of them with horns honking and beacon lights flashing are an imposing sight. And for decades, it has been a tradition for the trucks and their drivers to mourn their dead with a long and slow drive through town.

On Sunday, drivers from around the Tampa Bay area gathered outside the Moss Feaster Funeral Home in Largo to honor Scott Hinchliffe, who died July 9 at the age of 46.

An employee of Joe's Towing and Recovery in Largo, he was driving his heavy-duty tow truck south on Interstate 75 near Ellenton when a tire blew and he lost control. The truck slammed into a concrete embankment, tossing Mr. Hinchliffe out of the truck and killing him.

"He was a very hard-working guy," said David Stuart, who works for Joe's Towing and remembered that Mr. Hinchliffe, who lived in Madeira Beach, often talked about the show horses he owned.

Mr. Hinchliffe was a member of the National Reining Horse Association, which promotes reining, a sport in which riders guide horses through a predetermined routine while holding the reins in one hand.

Stuart said the accident could have happened to any driver. "You put enough miles on a truck, it heats up, and that's all it takes."

The job appeals to people who love the adrenaline rush of helping those stranded in sometimes desperate situations, said Paul Hartigan, who works for Kotakis Auto & Towing in Clearwater.

"It's a thrill not knowing what's going to come next," he said. "You could pull up to car with a dead battery or a car turned upside down."

The job also comes with perils. Ginger Darling, who owns Nationwide Towing and organized the procession, said it was the second time in two years that a local driver had died in a road accident. Tow truck drivers respond to calls at all hours and in all conditions, she said, and cars do not give them the same deference on the road as they would a fire truck or police car.

"The average public person does not have a clue what we do and how dangerous it is," she said. "We'd like the public to realize we are not the nasty, dirty drivers we're sometimes perceived as. We want them to see that we stand together."

Darling said Mr. Hinchliffe worked in towing since the 1980s.

However much they compete with one another for the lowest prices or the fastest response times, many different companies took part in the procession.

It traveled south to Ulmerton Road and onto 66th Street N, pausing Joe's Towing and Recovery where a flag flew at half-mast, before returning to the funeral home.

Along the route, onlookers stopped to honk their horns, take pictures and salute the drivers.

As a chorus of honks and beeps rose from the road, Darling chuckled. "That's a hell of a sweet sound," she said.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas procession of tow trucks mourns fallen colleague 07/15/12 [Last modified: Monday, July 16, 2012 12:04am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week


    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  2. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    The Rays open their final roadtrip of the season tonight in Baltimore, and - continuing the theme of the week - willl cross paths with another familiar face, INF Tim Beckham.

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  5. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma


    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]