Memorial marker to honor Orlando tow truck operator killed last year

Highway memorial marker unveiled in honor of 24-year-old Austin Gayne

ORLANDO, Fla. – The push to have a highway memorial marker in honor of 24-year-old Austin Gayne finally happened after the measure passed the state legislature earlier this year.

During an event hosted by the Orlando Fire Department, Gayne’s mother, Brooke Lawrence, revealed the marker that will be placed near the exit off of the 408 that leads to Rosalind Avenue.

“We didn’t give up. She didn’t give up. She was right there fighting, saying, ‘We need to get this done,” said Bob Cortes, Seminole County’s senior public affairs administrator. Cortes worked with the family to help them honor their son with a memorial marker.

“This is something that his children, when they start driving, they’ll be able to see,” Lawrence said. “It’s just about keeping his memory alive.”

Gayne was a tow truck operator for Johnson Wrecker. On Feb. 1, 2021, Gayne was called to assist at the scene of a crash on State Road 408 in Orlando, where he was struck and killed by a driver.

The unveiling brought together local legislators, law enforcement officials, state representatives, family members and those who worked with Gayne.

“He was a great guy, the kind of guy that a dad’s proud of, a mom is proud of, and us at Johnson’s, we were proud of,” Eric Lucas, a coworker of Gayne, said while holding back tears.

Speakers like Sen. Tom Wright, Rep. Anna Eskamani and Capt. Mark Castleberry of Florida Highway Patrol focused on the Slow Down Move Over Law, which requires drivers to move to the next lane or slow down when emergency or utility vehicles are on the side of the road.

“It is not only the law, but it’s the right thing to do. Our law enforcement, tow truck drivers, first responders, sanitation workers and utility service vehicles need the space and safety when responding to calls for service,” Castleberry said.

FHP reported that from January 2015 to October 2022, there have been 1,492 crashes where a driver was issued a citation for failing to move over for an emergency sanitation or utility service vehicle. Of those crashes, seven were fatal.

“So far for 2022, there have been 11,712 citations issued. The largest age group for this violation is drivers between the ages of 20-29,” Castleberry said.

In Florida, the Slow Down Move Over Law went into effect in 2002. Violating the law can result in a fine and points on a driving record.

About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.