Flagperson Tom Gardiner, killed after hit by truck, remembered as much-loved family man
'He had a kind heart and if you needed anything he was there,' says childhood friend of wife
A flagperson killed after he was hit by a truck is being remembered as a dedicated family man who loved the outdoors.
Tom Gardiner, 54, was part of a crew clearing brush on Route 80 between Heart's Content and New Perlican on the Bay de Verde Peninsula when he was struck by a pickup Thursday morning.
He was rushed to the hospital, and later died of his injuries.
Leighann Roberts, a childhood friend of Gardiner's wife, Lori, knew him for almost 20 years, and said he loved his wife and his family very much.
Infectious sense of humour
"His sense of humour was infectious and yes sometimes dry," she wrote to CBC. "He enjoyed the outdoors, made the BEST caribou sausages. We often traded for them. He made me sausages, I made him apple pie … He had a kind heart and if you needed anything he was there."
Gardiner — who was orginally from Placentia and lived in Labrador City before settling in New Harbour in 2011 — had a large circle of friends, said Roberts, because he got along with everyone he met.
"He was a gentle soul. He genuinely cared about people. You don't find many people like that left in the world," she wrote.
Never saw the truck that hit him, says father-in-law
Gardiner's father-in-law, Merv Williams, told CBC that other people on the road crew said it appeared that Gardiner never saw the truck that hit him.
"The other pickup just kept on coming, kept on coming, and I guess Tom never seen it, and it took him right off his feet," he said, adding that the truck went 15 metres or so before stopping.
Williams was told a second flagperson was allowing traffic through the area, and Gardiner had his stop sign out for vehicles coming the other way, watching the brush-clearing to make sure debris wasn't reaching the road.
"There was really no need for the truck driver to even come up that close," he said. "You're not supposed to come up next to the flagger. You're supposed to stop back 30 or 40 feet anyways."
Williams said he's heard the other driver has said the sun was in his eyes, but he doesn't accept that.
Anybody who can afford to drive today should be able to afford a pair of sunglasses. If not, he should stay off the friggin' roads.- Merv Williams
"If the sun is in your eyes, you'd think you'd stop and put some sunglasses on. The rule of the road is if you can't see where you're going, you're supposed to stop," he said.
"I'm sure his truck is probably equipped with sun visors, and he has sunglasses. If not, he should have had a pair of sunglasses. Anybody who can afford to drive today should be able to afford a pair of sunglasses. If not, he should stay off the friggin' roads."
'300-pound gentle bear'
Williams said he affectionately called Gardiner a "300-pound gentle bear."
"He was very kind-hearted, would stop and help anybody on the road," he said. "He'd help anybody do anything. Whatever they wanted to go at, 'Sure, no problem, I'll give you a hand.'"
A Conception Bay South contractor says road work like Gardiner's is dangerous, especially when drivers aren't paying attention.
Paddy Murphy, general manager of Hi Vis Traffic Control, called the death a tragedy.
"It's a gentleman out there, trying to make a living, just like everybody else that's trying to make a living, and now he doesn't get to go home today."
As a provider of traffic control, said Murphy, his company's No. 1 goal is to get everyone home safely.
'Nobody respecting the signs'
But reports from crew members of accidents and near-misses are so commonplace, he said, that his company is considering outfitting its employees and vehicles with cameras.
"There's been everything from being spit at, from being cursed on — cursed on is a daily thing — coffees thrown at them, people saying, 'How dare you stop me, how dare you, what gives you the right,' that sort of thing," he said.
"It's a pretty hostile environment for us on the highways. When you get out on the highways, on the Trans-Canada, our lovely Trans-Canada, it's speed. There's nobody respecting the signs."