Family of slain NY trucker wants to make sure this doesn’t happen again

| 3/10/2009

The family of a 35-year-old slain truck driver plans to turn the senseless tragedy into an opportunity to educate state and federal lawmakers about some of the dangers truckers face while out on the road.

Federal law requires truckers to pull off and take a mandatory break for 10 hours. This is what the victim’s father-in-law, Butch Savage, said Jason Rivenburg was doing when he was fatally shot during an apparent robbery.

The Fultonham, NY, trucker was parked at an abandoned gas station at mile marker 136 off Interstate 26, south of Columbia, SC.

Investigators believe Rivenburg was talking on his cell phone around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, when he was shot twice in the head through the cab window of the truck. He wasn’t found until early Saturday morning.

Three suspects are in custody and have been charged in the crime. The arrests were made after police recovered shell casings at the crime scene and then searched a list of gun owners who had recently purchased a .45-caliber handgun.

The suspects are accused of making off with an estimated $7 that Rivenburg had in his wallet.

Savage told Land Line Now on Sirius XM that Rivenburg’s family and friends have already begun circulating a petition, which the family plans to take to their lawmakers, about the need for states to provide adequate and safe parking options or safe havens for truckers.

A former trucker himself and also a resident of Fultonham, Savage said he is aware of the growing difficulty drivers are experiencing trying to find a spot to pull off and that the government needs to protect its taxpayers.

“Let the government spend money to protect the people who are paying the taxes,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do is get enough petitions to go to the legislators – whether it be state, federal, whatever – and try to get some safe havens for these trucks so (drivers) haven’t got to worry about, or anybody else hasn’t got to go through, what we are going through right now.”

A part-time trucker for Vanderveen Trucking Inc., of Delanson, NY, Rivenburg was scheduled to deliver organic milk to a grocery store in the nearby town of Elloree at 8 a.m. on Friday morning. He was filling in for another driver after his construction job ended for the winter.

Savage said his family appreciates all of the support they have received during this difficult time, from the truck stop employees who looked in their lots after Rivenburg failed to make his delivery, to the support they have received from the trucking community.

“I used to drive truck myself, and I know truckers are close. We always helped each other out as much as we possibly could,” he said. “He’s just an excellent guy. I am going to miss him a lot.”

Savage said his son-in-law wouldn’t have thought twice about handing over his wallet, or even the truck for that matter, if the suspects had asked, instead of shooting first.

“If those thugs down there had turned around and opened the door and pointed the gun at him and said, ‘I want your money,’ he’d have probably got out of the truck and told them to take the whole damn truck because his family and his life meant everything to him,” Savage said.

Rivenburg leaves behind a 2-year-old son. His wife is pregnant with twins.

As states look at closing their rest areas as a way to save money, eliminating critical truck parking spaces, Savage said he will do his best in the future to ensure that other drivers have a safe place to take their breaks.

“We’ve got to get these people in every state and in Washington, DC, to understand that trucks make the country,” he said.

– By Staff Writers Clarissa Kell-Holland and Reed Black