SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – The stepson of a veteran Road Ranger who was struck be a dump truck and killed Tuesday on the Florida Turnpike says his stepfather was devoted to his job and "always helped everyone."
He said his stepfather had been a Road Ranger for 10 years and had trained others for the job as well.
"He was my dad basically. He was my step-dad," said Michael Kowarsch, the victim's stepson. "I have known him for 16 years as a kid since I was 10 years old. He was a good guy."
The Florida Highway Patrol says 46-year-old Andres Garcia was trying to help a stranded motorist and was slowing down traffic in the northbound lanes of the Turnpike at S.W. 120th St. near the Snapper Creek Plaza while trying to bring a red mustang across the road on to a shoulder.
That's when FHP says a dump truck in traffic was unable to slow down and its brakes reportedly locked up. It was just before 1 p.m.
Kowarsch told CBS4's Peter D'Oench, "He was a very helpful person. He always helped everyone. He was a Road Ranger, every day putting his life on the line in accidents and always helping everyone with their laptops and their cars. He was a mechanic. Helping people and mechanics. He loved cars."
Kowarsch said his step-father knew how dangerous the job could be.
"It's just like a police officer every day dealing with accidents and moving people to the side with cars going very fast on the Turnpike," said Kowarsch.
"Did he ever worry about his own safety?" asked D'Oench.
"Yeah," said Kowarsch. "The job is dangerous. People get hit all the time on the side of the road like police officers. It happens."
FHP said the dump truck was driven by 40-year-old Sergio Gonzalez. He declined to say anything to CBS4's Cynthia Demos when she caught up with him Tuesday night.
FHP spokesman, Trooper Joe Sanchez said the investigation will determine if any charges will be filed.
Kowarsch said that he hopes that probe will be thorough.
"If the guy was liable or not, you know," said Kowarsch. "What was he doing?"
He also spoke about the dump truck's brakes reportedly locking up.
"I know trucks are pretty heavy," he said. "They're hard to stop."
D'Oench also spoke with Garcia's fiancé Anna Kowarsch and step-daughter Jessica Kowarsch but they told him they were too upset to say anything right now.
Richard Wheeler, who was Garcia's boss at Florida Turnpike Services, said this was a "sad loss" and said this was the first time a Road Ranger had been killed on the Florida Turnpike in South Florida since the program started on the Turnpike
12 to 14 years ago.
Kowarsch said his stepfather would have turned 47 on September 27th.
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