Ms. Hart’s letter (July 10th) describing her sad experiences with the procedure used by the sheriff and local tow companies when a vehicle requires towing and impoundment prompts me to share an a similar, although less tragic, incident.
In February, 2011, at about 3:30 p.m., my husband’s Toyota pick-up slid off a steep, icy section of North Pine Creek Road about 8 miles out of Tonasket. Had he not hit a large tree which stopped the vehicle, he would have proceeded down the steep hill and been badly injured. As it was, he was shaken, but okay, and a kind passerby drove him home—about five miles. The truck appeared badly damaged.
In our innocence, we thought we would wait and call a tow company next day to bring the damaged vehicle to our driveway, where we could assess the damage. Since we couldn’t get out (we were snowbound and live a mile from the main road) we called a friend to inspect the vehicle. The next day he called and informed us it was no longer there. We called the sheriff and were informed that less than an hour after the accident, a deputy sheriff decided it was dangerous to leave it there; even though it was off the road, it could “distract” other drivers. No one had notified us or asked what our plans were. We were told the vehicle had been towed to Thompson Bees in Oroville, not because they were the closest (they were not), but because the tow companies were called in a certain order and it didn’t matter how close or far they were from the vehicle. We had to either pick the truck up and pay both the tow and daily impoundment fees or else we would lose the vehicle. We finally managed to get our second car down through the snow, and then arranged with another tow company to buy our damaged truck and tow it away.( We were promised $350 for this, but only received $150). Before Thompson’s would release the truck to them, we had to get up to Oroville and pay our fees—a total of $638; tow charges of $378 and storage charges of $215, plus taxes. It was an expensive lesson!
We did appeal the deputy’s actions, but were told by Judge Culp that the deputy was empowered by law to remove the vehicle without our knowledge or consent if he judged it a hazard.
So beware motorists! If you are unlucky enough either through accident or mechanical failure to have to leave a car abandoned by the side of the road in Okanogan County, you had better have deep pockets or call a tow company pronto. It may be a scam, or it may just be an overreaction by the sheriff’s department to the law. In any case, Mercy does not season Justice here, nor do hardship, ignorance, injury, or even possibly death, count as an excuse.