Woman arrested after fatal hit-and-run; victim ID'd

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by WHAS editors

WHAS11.com

Posted on July 4, 2014 at 4:19 AM

Updated Sunday, Jul 6 at 9:05 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The Jefferson County coroner has identified a Louisville tow truck driver killed in a hit and run in south Louisville Thursday night.

Jewan Turner, 35, was in the emergency lane working on a car off Beulah Church Road, at the Gene Snyder, when the collision happened. Emergency crews tried to revive him, but he died at the scene. 

An hour later, police arrested Paula Oppel for Turner's murder. She remains at Metro Corrections on a $25,000 cash bond, charged with murder, DUI, and leaving the scene. She'll face arraignment Saturday morning.

Officers say Oppel did not stop after she struck Turner around 11:30 p.m. Thursday. She later told police she turned her car around to see what she'd hit but saw police on scene and drove on. It was then officers noticed the damage to the hood and windshield of her car and pursued her. She was arrested close to home after she failed a field sobriety test, blowing a .172, more than double the legal blood alcohol limit.

Local towing companies around Louisville say Turner's death was a senseless tragedy, one that happens far too often.

"It's definitely not a rarity," Stephen Strong, with Suburban Towing, said.
 
In his 32 years on the job, Strong says he's no stranger to close calls on the side of the road.
 
"I've been hit twice," Strong said.
 
He considers himself one of the lucky ones.
 
"I had a mirror spin me around. Another driver caught me with a bumper," Strong said.
 
Strong says the problem is drivers don't consider tow truck operators as emergency workers, but Kentucky law says otherwise.
 
"The law says, slow down or move over. It's just like with police and fire," Strong said.
 
Strong says tow truck drivers are usually the last to leave an accident scene.

"They have to depend only on the lights and the visibility they have wherever they are," Strong said. "It's really a crap shoot. You never know who's going to pop around the corner, a drunk driver, an inattentive driver. It could be anything."
 
"In 2013, there were seven police officers killed on the side of the road. There were twelve EMS workers killed on the side of the road. There were 52 wrecker operators killed on the side of the road. The numbers speak for themselves," Strong said.
 
Strong says unless serious injury occurs, most tow-truck drivers are left helpless in similar situations, when the driver involved doesn't pull over to help.

"They won't stop," Strong said.

A memorial in Chattanooga, Tenn. lists the names of dozens of men and women who've died while on wrecker duty. Turner's name will now join that list.
 
A.D. Porter and Sons is handling Turner's funeral arrangements.

Turner’s friends are organizing a fundraiser to raise awareness for the need to move over for emergency vehicles. On Sunday at 1:00 p.m. a caravan of cars and tow trucks will meet at the Bingo Palace on Dixie Highway and drive down the Snyder to the scene and back. Donations will be accepted to help pay for Turner’s funeral.
 

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