The investigation into the roadside death of a tow truck company owner continues as his family and employees mourn his loss.
Family and friends are providing the "devastated" family with emotional support, says a family member who described Jason Schaffer as a "larger than life" personality who was dedicated to his work.
"He loved towing, he loved the business, he loved what he did," said the man, who asked not to be named. "He was the owner, he was out there on the road at three in the morning… That says everything about him."
RCMP released little information surrounding 39-year-old Schaffer’s death.
Portage la Prairie RCMP arrived at the scene of the tragedy at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Road 70 west, near Sidney, around 3 a.m. on Monday.
They reported that Schaffer sustained fatal injuries while attempting to assist a stranded vehicle.
Schaffer co-owned and operated Accel Towing and Transport Ltd. with his wife, Angela Thompson.
On Tuesday, Accel fleet supervisor Ron Lamont described the incident as a freak industry accident.
He explained that Schaffer was on duty, assisting a tractor-trailer that had broken down beside the road.
Schaffer was hooking up the tractor-trailer and was underneath it to remove its drive shaft — a standard procedure — when, for some undetermined reason, the tractor-trailer moved forward and rolled over him.
He was not struck by a passing vehicle as some reports suggested.
Lamont estimated that Schaffer had 13 to 14 years experience as a tow truck driver.
Schaffer and Thompson co-founded Brandon-based Accel Towing and Transport in 2005.
As co-owners and operators, they oversaw a successful towing company that employs more than 20 people and, with a fleet of about 20 vehicles, has grown to be the largest towing fleet in Westman.
Lamont said the business was Schaffer’s "dream and passion." He and Thompson were named outstanding entrepreneur of the year for 2010-11 by the Brandon Chamber of Commerce.
On Tuesday, Lamont remembered Schaffer as a boss who treated his staff more like friends than employees.
"The loss of our leader leaves a vast hole in our organization, but the team of employees is doing their best to minimize the effect on the community that we serve," Lamont said in a statement.
The Accel team continues to work as Schaffer would have wanted, Lamont said, and the operation is running as close to normal as possible.
Meanwhile, the investigation continues.
Initially, police indicated that Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health would assist with the investigation.
But a provincial spokesperson said on Tuesday that the matter has since been passed on to Employment and Social Development Canada.
That department is working on an update to the investigation for media, but it wasn’t made available on Tuesday.
Schaffer is father of two children, 17-year-old Tyler and 10-year-old Ashley.
A trust fund has been set up on their behalf and contributions can be made at any Royal Bank using account number 00787-003-506-9877.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalized.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 11, 2013