Driving up to a car crash can be a scary sight for many, but for Corey Barkhouse, it presents a problem that needs to be solved.
The problem? How to get that car back to its original position on four wheels without causing further damage. The first step is to assess the scene.
“When you pull up, you have to look at what it is, the situation, traffic, road conditions, what do we have to do?” Barkhouse said.
It’s a problem the West Shore resident is used to coming across as one of seven part- and full-time tow truck drivers with Westshore Towing, a Langford-based company that serves the western and surrounding communities 24/7.
As a tow truck driver, Barkhouse is called to assist in a range of situations – from people who have locked their keys in their cars, residents who need a car jump, to bylaw calls from cities, asking the company to help move a vehicle that’s parked illegally. He also responds to more serious incidents such as car crashes, which are referred to as recoveries.
Working 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shifts, Barkhouse responds to anywhere between five to 20 calls a day.
Many areas in the West Shore are hot spots for accidents. Barkhouse said tow truck drivers are often called to crashes on Munn Road in the Highlands and Kangaroo and Sooke roads in Metchosin. The weather can also affect the number of calls for tows. Rain often results in more crashes and rollovers, and during the blast of snow earlier this year, there were 35 to 40 calls with only four drivers on shift.
Heading to the scene in his one-tonne red truck, Barkhouse knows few details about the situation. He’s attended many scenes where cars have been destroyed, upside down or wrapped around trees.
The hard part isn’t the tow, but how to get the car back into a position to allow Barkhouse to tow it properly.
“Most cars you can’t just sling them because they have plastic bumpers. The next thing is to see if we can straighten up the wheel and see if we can get the wheels on the wheel lift,” said Barkhouse, who has been with the company for close to six years. “It’s figuring out what’s the best way to tow it.”
A few years ago, Barkhouse and a few other drivers attended a scene in which a Ford Expedition SUV took a sharp turn around a corner on Millstream Lake Road in the Highlands, went through a pair of trees and ended up on its side in a creek.
“There’s basically not a scratch on this vehicle, so I don’t know how she did it,” said Barkhouse, noting he had to figure out a way to bring the car back up between the two trees, without damaging it further. At one point the car was hauled vertically in the air as drivers moved the deck underneath the car in order to transport it out.
“That was probably the most interesting [recovery] because we really had to pay attention to what we were doing and how we were hooking it up and how it was recovered … it was fun.”
Once the hard part is over, it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes for Barkhouse to attach the vehicle to the tow truck, before he takes it away.
While it can sometimes be a demanding job, Barkhouse enjoys it.
“It’s interesting for sure,” he said, adding his ability to problem solve and execute a tow comes with experience. “I enjoy being out in the community … I enjoy doing what I do. ”