Spirit Ride shows up in West Palm, Boynton with directive for drivers

The life of Woodson Metellus, then 18, was forever changed when his father, Arnold Metellus, a 59-year-old Haitian immigrant who lived in Boynton Beach and worked as a Road Ranger, was standing next to a disabled vehicle at 1 a.m., Oct. 26, 2014 near the Palmetto Park Road exit northbound Interstate 95

In one moment he was a hard-working husband, and father to a high school student.

In the next moment, he was gone — struck by a Jeep Grand Cherokee while standing along the highway. The driver responsible for the fatal crash left the scene.

“I’m 18 years old, but every son needs his father,” Woodson said at the time.

BOYNTON BEACH READERS: Sign up for The Post’s weekly Boynton Beach newsletter here

It’s those tragic moments that inspired The Spirit Ride, a year-long, nationwide public awareness campaign for “Slow Down, Move Over” laws.

On Friday, the pilgrimage through more than 200 cities across the country, came through Palm Beach County with stops in two places — West Palm Beach and Metellus’ hometown of Boynton.

The Spirit Ride, which began April 11 in Winston-Salem, N.C., included a procession of tow trucks, emergency vehicles and the 8-foot long casket on a flat-bed of a tow truck used to symbolize those who died in roadside crashes. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 33 tow truck operators were killed while attending to stranded drivers in 2014.

FHP reveals parts recovered from Jeep that killed I-95 Road Ranger in Boca Raton

Supporting the cause in Boynton Beach were several members of local tow truck companies, along with members of the Boynton Beach Police and Fire Departments.

“My family owns a couple businesses, towing companies, and in the past, we’ve actually had a lot of fallen first responders,” said Joseph Morgado of Zuccala’s Wrecker Service in Boynton Beach. “Every year there are hundreds of first responders including tow truck drivers, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services who get killed on the roadway due to the public’s lack of awareness of this law.”

“Slow Down, Move Over” laws exist in all 50 states and require vehicles to move over one lane, or slow down, when approaching a roadside incident aided by tow truck drivers or first responders.

Boynton teen: ‘I don’t hate person’ who killed father in hit-and-run

Statistics, cited in a release from Spirit Ride, show a tow truck driver dies on average every six days, and that 71 percent of Americans are unfamiliar with “Slow Down, Move Over” laws. Through the work of events like the Spirit Ride, first responders are beginning to see a spike in awareness.

“Some people are starting to realize that it is a law,” Boynton Beach Fire Dept. Capt. Johnny Canela said. “I do see a little bit of the awareness increasing.”

Despite progress, attending to roadside incidents still presents a life-threatening risk.

“My worst fear is a call on I-95 were I can’t get off the road quick enough,” said Boynton Beach Firefighter and Paramedic Kevin Cox. “I’ll go into a fire any day of the week, I’ll jump into a ditch to help somebody with no fear at all, but going on 95 is scary.”

The collaborative effort between law enforcement and those who organize the Spirit Ride, in its second year, has helped the event reach a wider audience.

“Some people don’t respect the amber lights, they just respect the blue lights, so when you have everybody together, fighting for the same cause and spreading the campaign, it makes the message stronger,” Spirit Ride Command Team member Ilce Corbin said.

It’s an important message that requires the public’s cooperation, because a mistake on the roadway around those who place themselves in harm’s way effects more than just the person standing along the road.

“I understand it’s frustrating for some drivers, but we need the space to be safe ourselves and get home to our families,” Cox said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

9 members of one family among 17 killed in duck boat accident on lake in Branson, Missouri 
9 members of one family among 17 killed in duck boat accident on lake in Branson, Missouri 

A duck boat accident on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, killed 17 people Thursday night, including the boat’s driver and nine members of an Indiana family, according to authorities. Fourteen other people were injured. >> Read more trending news  Update 8:45 a.m. EDT July 21: The Stone County coroner confirmed to KSDK that...
Ousted small-business owners claim racial bias in garbage hauling
Ousted small-business owners claim racial bias in garbage hauling

A pair of black small business owners have accused the Solid Waste Authority of failing to live up to its commitment to help small businesses by ignoring their complaints when a large hauling company dumped them. By not forcing the large hauler to retain the companies, the authority failed to assure that business opportunities filter down to all parts...
Cerabino: Florida’s NRA mouthpiece reaches for a silencer
Cerabino: Florida’s NRA mouthpiece reaches for a silencer

Florida’s chief NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer is standing her ground in a whole new way. This month, the 79-year-old grandmother and the guiding hand of permissive gun legislation in Florida for decades, filed a 129-page federal lawsuit that is mostly a compilation of the bitter, profane and sometimes threatening emails she received after the February...
Millions fall for South Carolina dentist in viral ‘In My Fillings’ dance video
Millions fall for South Carolina dentist in viral ‘In My Fillings’ dance video

A dentist in Greenville, South Carolina, is inspiring millions to get their teeth cleaned after taking on the Drake-inspired “In My Feelings” dance challenge. Dr. Rich Constantine’s version of the “shiggy” -- a dance inspired by the rapper -- has over 24 million views on Facebook. >> Read more trending...
Dozens turn out for Riviera town hall in call to action to end violence
Dozens turn out for Riviera town hall in call to action to end violence

Less than a week after two people were gunned down in separate shootings in Riviera Beach, more than 50 concerned citizens gathered for a town hall meeting to voice their concerns about the violence plaguing the city. Those who attended the town hall were adamant that the bloodshed must end and came to make their voices heard. Also in attendance were...
More Stories