ATLANTA - Family members of a HERO Unit operator killed on the job talked to Channel 2 Action News about their loss.
Spencer Pass, 45, of Jonesboro, was killed when a truck sideswiped his HERO unit Monday morning as he offered assistance to a stranded motorist on Interstate 85, just south of Atlanta.
Pass' family said he was a devout Christian who loved his job.
"You could not have found a better friend, better Christian or better person," Barbara Pass said of her son.
Investigators with the Georgia State Patrol told Channel 2's Linda Stouffer that a truck, driven by Kirk A. Sherwood, was pulling a trailer with heavy equipment when it crashed into Pass' HERO unit on I-85 near Metropolitan Parkway. HERO stands for Highway Emergency Response Operator.
Police said the truck also hit Pass, who was outside his vehicle, and collided with the stranded pickup truck. The truck then overturned, blocking all southbound lanes of the interstate.
Barbara Pass said she always had reservations about the job, but that her son knew how to reassure her.
"He said, 'Someone has to do it. I'll be alright,'" said Barbara Pass.
She said her son always wanted to be in law enforcement, so being part of the DOT's HERO unit was like a dream come true.
Authorities told Stouffer that the driver of the flatbed truck was injured. The stranded motorist, identified as James T. Davis, managed to dodge the truck as it approached.
Officials told Stouffer that Pass was the first HERO unit operator to be killed while on duty.
"I pray that his family gains comfort and strength from the caring sympathy of the entire Georgia DOT family," said Georgia DOT Commissioner Vance C. Smith Jr. We have lost one of our Georgia DOT family members today," Smith said. "Our prayers go out to his unit co-workers as well."
Pass' supervisor, Roosevelt Smith, told Stouffer, " We're going to just throw our arms around each other and continue to do our jobs. They call us heroes, but really we're servants ... just trying to do our jobs."
HERO units patrol metro Atlanta highways daily, helping to clear troubled vehicles off the road and to keep traffic moving. HERO unit operators help repair flat tires and provide fuel, jump starts and courtesy phones. Operators are not members of a law enforcement agency.
Pass leaves behind three teenage boys from a previous marriage, and his second wife.
"He was a big part of this family. He kept everyone together and made sure everyone was taken care of so he will be missed dearly," said Pass' brother Edward Pass.
If you would like to donate to Pass' family, a Spencer Pass Memorial Fund has been set up through the Bank of America.