Toronto

Hundreds pay respects to Oshawa tow truck driver who died on job

Hundreds of people paid their respects to an Oshawa tow truck driver on Wednesday after he died on the job last week while helping a stranded motorist out of a ditch near Port Perry, Ont.

Todd Burgess, 56, killed on Nov. 7 while helping a stranded motorist in a ditch near Port Perry

Beverly Todd Burgess, 56, described as a kind hearted man, died on Highway 12 north of Scugog Line 2. The collision, south of Port Perry, Ont. last Thursday, happened when a driver lost control and killed him instantly. (Supplied)

Hundreds of people paid their respects to an Oshawa tow truck driver on Wednesday after he died on the job last week while helping a stranded motorist out of a ditch near Port Perry, Ont.

Beverly Todd Burgess, 56, described as a kind-hearted man, died on Highway 12 north of Scugog Line 2. The collision, south of Port Perry, Ont., happened at about 8:00 a.m. last Thursday when a driver lost control and veered into the accident scene, striking and killing him instantly.

Everyone knew him as Todd.

Tow truck drivers who attended a graveside service for Burgess at Bowmanville Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon, reminded motorists to follow the Ontario law that requires them to move over and slow down when they see a tow truck with lights flashing.

Dozens of tow truck drivers drove on a stretch of Highway 401 before the service in honour of his memory.

Brad Fenney, a close friend who knew Burgess for 15 years, told CBC Toronto that he was with him when he died.

Hundreds paid respects to Todd Burgess at a graveside service at Bowmanville Cemetery on Wednesday. (CBC)

One person on the scene yelled that a car was speeding towards them. Another dove into the ditch, while a third went onto the road to avoid the vehicle. But Burgess didn't have time to move out of the way.

"It just was instant. He didn't have anywhere to go," Fenney said on Wednesday.

Ontario Provincial Police say the road was covered with snow at the time.

Burgess described as 'kind hearted'

"I'm not going to lie — couldn't sleep, couldn't eat. And me, seeing my buddy, lying in the ditch, lifeless. You wouldn't wish that on anybody," Fenney said.

"It's just a tragedy to lose someone so kind hearted."

Burgess drove a taxi before he drove a tow truck. Friends say he was well known in the Port Perry and Bowmanville areas for driving a cab and working for Ray's Towing. Most recently, he lived in Oshawa with his mother. 

Friends say he was witty, caring and an excellent conversationalist, a great guy with a big heart who will be missed. He had the "gift of the gab," Fenney said.

Brian McKeown, another friend who knew him for at least 10 years, said Burgess went out of his way to help people.

"I ran out of gas one time and he gave me a taxi ride. And I tried to flip him some money and he said, 'No, just buy me a coffee sometime.' It's a tragic thing that happened to him. I am very heartbroken about it. He was a really good man."

Death should send message to drivers, operator says

Mark Colbran, a heavy tow operator who travelled from Sarnia, Ont. to attend the service, said the death of Burgess should send a message to drivers. He said motorists are often not paying attention.

A line of tow truck operators arrive at Bowmanville Cemetery

"Every one of us has probably had a close call at one time or another. We're working on the side of a highway, vehicles are travelling at 100 kilometres an hour and we are just inches away," he said.

"I'm just looking to get home to my family every night. That's all these guys want to do.

'This was a senseless tragedy'

"You need to slow down and move over and give us room to do our job. This was a senseless tragedy."

An obituary for Burgess, published by the Northcutt Elliott Funeral Home, said: "Todd was always willing to lend a hand, he was quick to smile and would chat to anyone who would listen. Sadly, he was killed doing what he was known to always do, help others."

On a GoFundMe page for Burgess, Fenney wrote: "Todd would have given anyone the shirt off his back even before they asked."

Fenney added: "Rest in Paradise my friend ... until we meet again ... and as you would say: 'No problem, on my way.'

The Ontario Provincial Police tweeted this photo of the scene where Todd Burgess died on Nov. 7, 2019. He was helping the driver in the red car when he was hit by the driver in the silver car. (Ontario Provincial Police)

With files from Talia Ricci, Muriel Draaisma