A longtime Perryville tow truck driver was fatally struck by a car while on the side of northbound Interstate 95 near the Tydings Bridge toll plaza in Cecil County Sunday morning, Maryland State Police said.
Brian Williams, 51, was standing on the side of the highway next to his 2014 Freightliner tow truck and a purple 1993 Chevrolet Camaro he was retrieving about 10:32 a.m. when he was hit, police said. He was pronounced dead about 15 minutes later, police said.
Eric Schlerf, 37, of Bel Air was driving a 2001 Jeep Cherokee when “for unknown reasons, [he] lost control of his vehicle” and struck Williams and the two vehicles, State Police said.
Schlerf could be reached to comment Sunday. No charges were immediately filed, and no additional information on the crash was available. The incident temporarily shut down the highway and caused major traffic backups on I-95 and U.S. 1.
Williams, a longtime member of the Community Fire Company of Perryville, retired after 28 years from the Baltimore County Fire Department last year, said Chase Armington, a close friend and family spokesman.
Williams spent his life pursuing his calling of helping others, Armington said.
“He did it because it was the right thing to do. He didn’t ever expect anything in return; he didn’t want anything in return,” he said. “His reward was helping whoever it is he helped.”
He was one of a few Perryville fire company members who also drive tow trucks for Collette’s Service Center, said Fire Chief Brian Jones. He had worked there as a mechanic since he was young and became a driver once he got his license, Armington said.
Williams took on many roles in the tight-knit, 50-member volunteer fire company in Perryville. He served on the board of directors and as a lieutenant, emergency medical services captain and chief engineer, Jones said.
“He was very well-rounded, a real go-getter,” he said. “He’d do anything for you.”
When an older member of the company became disabled, Williams gathered a group of younger members to install a wheelchair ramp for him, Jones said.
“That’s just the way Brian was — looking out for the older members and trying to teach the younger members,” Jones said.
Williams’ wife, Kerri, is also a member of the fire company, and the pair organized a company shrimp feast in May. She was paged about the accident and drove to the scene when she couldn’t reach him, Jones said.
“She was totally distraught,” he said. “I just hugged her.”
Baltimore County Fire Chief Kyrle Preis said he learned of the retired county firefighter’s death in a text message Sunday and quickly checked the department’s personnel database.
“It stopped me in my tracks,” he said.
Preis had known Williams since joining the department in 1990 as a paramedic, responding to fires and car crashes alongside him when they worked the same shift in neighboring stations. Sometimes, when members were absent, they would be assigned to work as partners.
“Brian worked at the Perry Hall station, No. 55, and I worked down the street at the Fullerton Station, No. 8,” he said. “He was the nicest man in the world. … It’s just something that’s hard to get your head around.”
Williams finished his career as an administrative duty officer at the dispatch center, acting as a liaison between the Fire Department and other agencies, the news media, elected officials and the public, the chief said.
“He was just such an asset to us over there because it takes a real special person to do that job,” Preis said. “Brian was that guy. He’s going to be missed.”
The loss will be especially painful in Perryville, a small town of about 4,300, “the kind of place where you know everybody,” the chief said.
“Think about how many lives that guy touched, how many accidents that guy has been on on [I-]95 himself,” Preis said.
Armington said he developed an indescribable “brother bond” with Williams, vacationing together and consoling each other in difficult times.
“He’s just one of those good people,” he said. “The world doesn’t have enough of them anymore.”
Services had not yet been scheduled.
In addition to his wife, Williams is survived by a daughter, Emily Williams, of North Carolina; two sisters, Teri McGraw and Toni Peters, of Perryville; a brother, Barry Williams, of Dover, Del., and a niece. His parents, Benjamin and Thressa Williams, preceded him in death.