Victoria tow-truck worker struck, killed while working on highway roadside

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

March 31, 2011 at 2:05 p.m.
Updated March 30, 2011 at 10:31 p.m.

WOODSBORO - A 24-year-old Victoria man who was a wrecker driver for Coby's Auto and Wrecker Service was killed on the job Thursday morning.

Christian Gutierrez, a three-time Iraq combat Marine veteran, was loading a vehicle onto his wrecker truck on the shoulder of northbound U.S. Highway 77 at the Chocolate Swale bridge about 6 a.m. when he was struck by a UPS tractor-trailer, said Refugio DPS Trooper Carl Currie.

Gutierrez's girlfriend, Maria Cahue, 19, was told about Gutierrez's death about 10:30 a.m. when the wrecker service owner stopped by to deliver the news.

"I couldn't believe it," she said. "I didn't think it was him."

The couple would have celebrated their first anniversary Friday.

The UPS driver, Steven Booker, 44, is from Houston, Currie said. Charges are pending, he said.

The vehicle Gutierrez was loading had been in an accident that had not been reported, Currie added.

Cahue said her 2-year-old daughter, Andrea, had been asking for Gutierrez on Thursday because she does not understand what happened.

Cahue said Gutierrez was not Andrea's biological father, but she will always remember how he treated her as his own.

The fatal crash is the kind a Senate bill passed Wednesday addresses. The proposed law would require drivers to slow down for tow trucks working accident scenes or picking up disabled vehicles.

Under the measure, drivers would be required to slow down to at least 20 miles under the speed limit or change lanes away from the tow truck to prevent an accident.

Cahue said she was heading to Laredo Thursday night to be with Gutierrez's family while they plan funeral arrangements.

Donna Cowan, owner of the wrecker service along with her husband, said she was shocked by the early-morning news.

"He was a really good-hearted guy," Cowan said. "He was always willing to go the extra mile to get his work done."

Gutierrez was one month shy of his anniversary as a wrecker driver for the company, she said.

Gutierrez had received the call at 4 a.m., Cowan said.

Now, the wrecker service's main focus is to assist the family as much as possible, she said.

"It's quite devastating when you work with someone every day to lose them like this," she said.

Gutierrez and Cahue had known each other for about three years and Gutierrez moved from Laredo to be with Cahue and her daughter in Victoria about a year ago, she said.

"He always put everyone else before him," Cahue said. "He was always willing to help. If he could help you, he'd be there."



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