William Padilla, a tow truck operator for GT Towing Service, died early Friday morning after being struck by a driver police believe to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"He was a big teddy bear of a man who loved his job," Sande Tillet-Hain, a friend of Padilla's and the office manager for GT Towing said.
"He was a great guy and towing was his life," she said of the Burien man who worked in the towing industry for over 15 years.
Shavelle Lewis, 20, admitted to state patrol that she was the driver of a Ford Explorer that careened across five lanes of traffic and struck Padilla, 51, who was working on a disabled vehicle on southbound I-5.
"It was a result of drugs or alcohol and road conditions were not an issue" said Washington State Patrol trooper Christina Martin.
Lewis and her passenger Lucky Mike Dozier, 31, spun out after hitting Padilla, his tow truck and the disabled vehicle, then corrected their vehicle and left the scene.
Trooper Martin said a DUI squad trooper was close to the accident and was quick to pursue and track down Lewis and Dozier, who had pulled over at the bottom of the Michigan Street ramp. Both suspects were out of the vehicle and Dozier was urinating when the trooper arrived.
According to Martin, neither suspect initially admitted to driving the vehicle, but Lewis has since admitted that she was the driver.
"It's just a bad week" Tillet-Hain said, adding that another GT tow truck driver had barely avoided being hit in an accident while working earlier in the week.
Both suspects have been booked into King County Jail.
The Washington State Patrol provided this press release this morning:
A tow truck driver was struck and killed on the entrance ramp from Spokane Street to southbound Interstate 5 at approximately 1:15 a.m. while securing a vehicle from an earlier collision. The driver, a 51 year old male working for GT towing in Seattle was kneeling down at the left front side of the disabled vehicle when a southbound 2000 Ford Explorer lost control while travelling in the HOV lane. The Explorer came across all 5 southbound lanes and struck the tow truck driver. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
After colliding with the tow truck operator, disabled vehicle, and tow truck, the Explorer spun back across all southbound lanes and came to rest facing northbound in the middle of the freeway. As the tow truck driver lay mortally wounded in the right lane, the driver of the Explorer turned the vehicle around and fled the scene southbound on Interstate 5. Alert troopers located the Explorer within minutes of the collision at the bottom of the Michigan Street ramp as one of the occupants was outside urinating. The male suspect, 31 year old Lucky Mike Dozier Jr. and 20 year old Shavelle Lewis, who is believed to be the driver, were taken into custody and booked into the King County Jail.
The cause of the collision is under investigation and detectives are working to verify who was driving the SUV. It is believed that both occupants were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the collision. Vehicular homicide and hit and run charges are expected as the investigation progresses.