Local News

Jeff Rackley died as he lived: Helping others

Posted December 2, 2014

— The owner of Jeff’s Wrecker Services in Rocky Mount died Monday evening while assisting a stranded motorist along Interstate 95 in Wilson, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said.

"He was just a saint," Wendy Rackley said of her husband, Jeffery Allen Rackley, 44.

"I know that he is in heaven because Jeff was a good man."

Family, friends and loyal customers mourned at Rackley's home Tuesday night, but they said they were not surprised that he was helping someone else when his time came.  

According to the state Highway Patrol, Jeff Rackley was on the should of I-95 just south of Interstate 795, had his tow truck’s bed lowered and was loading a disabled vehicle when a vehicle driven by Paul Joseph Dattari, 67, moved from the left lane to the shoulder, struck the disabled vehicle and pushed it onto the truck and into Rackley.

It was work that he loved, Wendy Rackley said. 

"There's a story about him that he hooked up his first car at four years old," she said. "He knew more about the wrecker business than, I think, anybody."

That knowledge, paired with commitment and kindness earned Jeff Rackley respect from customers as well. Helen Knight remembered a man who would adjust his prices based on what she could pay.

"He would normally charge $60 or $80 to tow, but he would charge me $40 because I didn't have enough money at the time," she said. "I told him my situation. I'm a single parent."

Stepdaughter Brooke Joyner said, "He was a man, a father, a husband that he didn't have to be. He became one of my best friends."

The wreck happened just after 4 p.m. and closed the southbound lanes of the highway just past Interstate 795 for about two hours.

Dattari, of 231 Walden Green Drive in Raeford, was treated for minor injuries and released from Wilson Medical Center. He was then taken to the Wilson County jail, where he was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, felony failure to move over and careless and reckless driving. Dattari received a $5,000 bond.


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  • GravyPig Dec 3, 2014

    Rest in peace Jeff. Our roadside assistance folks live in danger every day.

    Slow down, move over, and pay attention. Lives are on the live.

  • GravyPig Dec 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    You fail to understand the law. This kind of caution should be used when anyone is on the side of the road. Everyone deserves to live.

    This is from the June 26th article WRAL posted:

    Under the "Move Over" law, drivers must move over one lane, if possible, or reduce their speed when approaching emergency and public service vehicles – such as utility and towing trucks – with flashing lights stopped on the shoulder of a highway."

    Read more at http://www.wral.com/nc-dot-promoting-awareness-of-move-over-law/13771658/#fXievX0Z4ijxfx6c.99

  • 50s Child Dec 3, 2014

    He might have been driving recklessly, or he might have had some bully tailgating him so ferociously that he moved over. Another site says he signaled before moving to the right. I've had some nasty experiences with that on I95.

  • Christopher Andrews Dec 3, 2014
    user avatar

    When will people will ever learn to slow down for flashing lights and to stay as far away as possible.......It is the LAW to move to the left lane if a emergency vehicle is on the side of the road......Also it is the law to turn on your headlights on when it rains.....people in this state still don't know this one either.......poor guy....may God rest his soul and bless his family.

  • Hippy_mom Dec 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Everyone is both in a rush and on their cellphones these days. The next time you're stopped at a red light, take note of how many people drive through the intersection yapping on their phones. We live an age of entitlement. Mr. Rackley seemed like someone who bucked that trend. May his family be comforted by his legacy of helping others.

  • fanzalive Dec 3, 2014

    I think the bigger question is why did this driver move from the left lane to the shoulder? I can venture a guess. He was flying down the left land and traffic slowed due to the disabled vehicle and this person had to swerve to avoid the cars that had the bright red lights known as brake lights. Drives me crazy to watch these people in left lane drive like madmen when anyone can see 100 feet ahead that traffic is slow.

  • Kimberly Daniel Dec 3, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    When my car died about a foot before I got out of the road during rush hour on 440, it was definitely an emergency situation the tow truck was responding to and resolving.

  • I Have a Discernible Chin Dec 2, 2014

    These guys, with some exceptions in Raleigh, Chapel Hill etc., work hard to help folks out. Sorry to see this.

  • flyguync Dec 2, 2014

    Such a tragedy. I always cringe when I see people pulled onto the shoulder on an interstate, since just a second of inattention by other drivers can mean disaster. If possible, people need to pull off at an exit, it's much safer.

  • KT6596 Dec 2, 2014

    Nothing ever happens to these people once they are charged.