by BETH ALTENA Todd Pell was thrilled at his prospects a year ago when he purchased Rockford Towing and faced a future as his own boss. Recently, he came very near to losing his life in that new business. “I’m probably still in shock,” Pell reported, just hours from an accident scene where he lost his newest vehicle to a crash that could have killed him. Pell had just stepped from the space between his new 2011 Ford 550 tow truck and the car he was rescuing from a ditch near Harvard Road and 18 Mile. It was barely 7:30 a.m. and he was doing his job when the tremendous sound of the collision filled the air. “You can’t believe how loud it is,” Pell said. An oncoming vehicle, racing along at an estimated 55 mph on the back road hit his truck head-on without any evidence that the brakes had been applied. “He never slowed down or moved over,” Pell reported of the teenage driver who hit him and did sustain injuries. The driver’s car hit Pell’s truck head-on, totaling it and causing it to smash into the car which Pell had seconds before been hooking up to pull from the ditch. The impact was horrific, Pell described. “It was a close call for me,” he said. “It was five seconds or three feet and I would have been killed.” Pell hopes the incident will remind people that tow trucks are emergency vehicles, just like ambulance and police, and drivers need to slow down and pay attention when they see them on a scene. According to Commander Chris McIntyre of the Michigan State Police, Rockford Post, being on the road—whether from traffic stops or at accidents—is a most dangerous part of the jobs of first responders. He said when officers die in the line of duty, it is more often by being struck by careless drivers than in other situations. Pell is grateful that this close call was just that, and hopes that sharing his story will remind drivers to slow down and be careful when approaching any emergency vehicle on the road.
‘I’m buying a piece of Rockford’ by BETH ALTENA When you see the Rockford football team on the big flatbed truck during this Saturday’s Start of Summer parade, the truck towing it won’t be River Valley Auto. Todd Pell has purchased the towing portion of the River Valley Auto business and has changed the company name to Rockford Towing. He couldn’t be more pleased about owning his own business in Rockford and, after nearly two decades in the tow business, to being his own boss. The business was purchased from John Shattuck and Dan Williams, who between them own River Valley Auto and Car Star of Rockford. Williams said that for tow customers, there will be no change in service and the business will still be located in the “bull pen” on River Valley’s property. “He wanted a tow business and we wanted to get out of that and concentrate on body shops and mechanical garage,” said Williams, a second-generation owner of Car Star. Williams said River Valley and Car Star will service and repair any make vehicle, but specialize in European makes. They have been very busy and Williams said the transaction comes at a good time. “It was a handful to juggle all those balls.” The business is one of the “old timers” in Rockford, reaching back to its founding in 1985 by Roy Nielson when Roy opened a gas station/car wash with towing. Son Ryan Nielson, who is still with the business, going to work with Pell as lead tow driver. Along with Ryan go the titles to six wreckers, two flatbeds and one service car. Ryan remembers when his dad owned just one tow truck, when he was a tot. “A lot of people still call it Roy’s,” said Ryan. Roy sold the business in February 2001 to Gordie LaFontaine, who operated it for the next seven years. The public has seen the bright red trucks with black lettering pull our athletic heroes on flatbeds through the annual Start of Summer Parade. Pell is excited that this year the trucks pulling the high school football team will be his and parade watchers will see his new logo as Rockford Towing. “Over time as we acquire new trucks we will change the […]