WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As a tow truck driver, Terry Bates knows his job is a dangerous one.
"I've been over changing a tire and I hear the rumble strips," Bates said. "All I can think of is, 'This is it.'"
Bates and fellow tow truck drivers, law enforcement and EMS took part in a Spirit Ride through Wilmington on Friday afternoon to escort a casket honoring fallen first responders. The cross-country movement urges drivers to obey the Move Over Law requiring motorists to avoid emergency vehicles pulled over on the side of the road when they can.
"My wife, Heather, wants me to come home," Johnnie Whaley, a tow truck driver, said. "My boys want me to come home."
According to Move Over America, since 1999 more than 150 law enforcement officers have been killed after a vehicle hit them on the side of the road.
Bates and Whaley said they lost a friend and mentor in 2012 when John Colville, a tow truck driver, was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver. Colville was working for AAA at the time of the accident. He spent his last moment alive helping a driver on the side of the road.
"I hope people see this coffin and get the seed in their head that it could be their loved one in that coffin," Whaley said, gesturing toward the Spirit Ride's casket.
On Saturday morning, the casket will make a stop at Wilmington International Airport for a ceremony. From there, first responders will escort it to the South Carolina border as it continues its tour of the United States.