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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingNovember 22 - November 28, 2017

Water-Logged Recovery

0 939e1By Jim "Buck" Sorrenti

James Riley started James Riley Inc., his construction company in Corrigan, Texas, in the early '80s. He saw a need for a towing company in his area, so he started Riley's Towing & Recovery. Riley quickly earned a reputation as a heavy-duty recovery specialist and become Polk County's go-to guy for the difficult situations.

When the call came in from the Polk County Sheriff's Office to recover a tractor-trailer that had crashed through a guardrail and gone into Lake Livingston, it was business as usual for Riley and his crew.

At around 4 a.m. on May 19, 2011, a 2005 International 4300 was heading eastbound on Big Bridge in Onalaska. Suddenly, a small blue Toyota Corolla driven by an 18-year-old girl heading westbound swerved into his lane, and they collided. The Toyota spun around and came to rest facing east on the bridge. The truck driver lost control and left the road. The truck struck and went over the guardrail, falling straight down the embankment into Lake Livingston.

After several tries, the truck driver was able to break the door glass with his hands and swim to safety. The young girl in the Toyota was checked by EMS personnel and was physically OK. She was placed under arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Traffic on the Big Bridge was partially blocked in both directions as the investigation and cleanup took place. Riley arrived in his 2007 Kenworth 900 with an NRC 50-ton Slider. He had also dispatched his 2010 Peterbilt 337 with a 22' NRC rollback.

"The truck was pulling a loaded flatbed trailer ... with guardrail and wooden posts for highways," Riley said. "The guardrail on the back of the trailer was barely visible, and a floating load of short wooden poles was all that we could see of the truck and trailer in the water."

After surveying the scene, Riley positioned his 50-ton Slider to be able to pull the truck and trailer from the lake. Operator Anastacio Garcia went into the water to do the rigging to the trailer.

"As I pulled out the trailer, the attached truck slowly began to come into view. It was upside down," Riley said. "We detached the trailer so that we could bring it up first."

Texas DOT workers had to cut and carry a section of guardrail away creating an opening in order to get the truck and trailer through and back up onto the road. The trailer was brought back up and towed away by Riley's.

Next they dealt with getting the 2005 International 4300 out of the lake. The truck was dragged up the embankment to the road upside down. Once it was on the road, James prepared it to be turned upright and ready to be towed.

"Once we got it back on its wheels at around 11:15 a.m., we towed it in to our yard and the scene was totally cleared shortly before 12 noon," Riley said.

(This article originally appeared in the August 20, 2014 edition of Tow Industry Week)

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