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Worker Crushed Under Car That Dislodged from Tow Straps, Michigan

Michigan Case Report: 10MI082
Report Date: 10/6/2011


In the Summer of 2010, a 19-year-old male worker at a towing and junk car removal firm died when a car slipped or fell off of a tow truck’s boom arm tow straps while he was underneath the car. The night prior to the incident, one of the firm’s tow truck drivers, using an extendable boom hook and chain (also known as a sling or belt lift) truck, delivered to the firm’s staging area a heavily damaged 1996 Chrysler LHS, weighing approximately 3,500 pounds. The vehicle had been totaled in a motor vehicle accident. The damaged car had been towed to the staging area and lowered to the ground. The tow truck and car were positioned on an approximate three to five degree downward slope, on very uneven, rutted asphalt. When the decedent arrived at work the following day, the shop supervisor directed him to dismantle the vehicle (drain fluid, remove the catalytic converter and other under-components, the tires, etc). The incident was unwitnessed. A coworker was sitting in the tow truck cab. The decedent started the tow truck to activate the hydraulic boom arm so he could raise the car approximately three to five feet above the ground. The decedent was positioned near the front the driver’s side wheel of the raised vehicle. The decedent’s position indicated that he may have been sitting on his haunches looking under the car when the car slipped or fell from the tow straps and struck his head/neck/back, pinning him to the ground. Witnesses stated they remembered one tow chain attached to the car. It is unknown if the decedent had hooked a second chain to the car – a second chain was found lying near the car. The decedent did not use any secondary support, such as a safety stand prior to looking under the vehicle. The coworker sitting in the tow truck cab heard a loud noise and exited the truck. He saw the decent pinned under the vehicle and screamed for help. The decedent’s coworkers lifted the vehicle using a floor jack and then removed the decedent from under the vehicle. Emergency response was called and transported the decedent to a local hospital where he was declared dead.


  • Towing company employers should prohibit using tow trucks to raise vehicles for the purpose of working underneath them without the use of appropriately selected and positioned wheel chocks and secondary supports such as safety stands.
  • One end of each tow chain should be secured to an appropriate tow truck attachment point not to the lift assembly.
  • The employer should develop and implement a written safety and health program that includes the inspection of wrecker lifting mechanisms, tool inspection, and employee training.
  • The employer should obtain an AAA Towing and Service Manual to maximize safety and minimize costs regarding vehicle towing.

Worker Crushed Under Car That Dislodged from Tow Straps, Michigan [PDF 667 KB]