Daniel was a sweet and compassionate man. He was known for working on trucks, for his natural talent and his skills that grew larger than he could imagine. He was the kind of person that finished whatever he started and felt proud afterward. Daniel always had a desire to be helpful and share his knowledge.
Passionate About His Work
It all started when Daniel was a young boy. He tinkered with bicycles and anything he could take apart and put back together. He loved doing that kind of stuff. As he grew older, he became interested in motorcycles and cars, so he tinkered with those as well.
One day, as a young adult, he went to a truck pull and loved it. After that, he just had to have a truck of his own. He started going to truck pulls regularly and worked on his truck and friends’ trucks. One thing led to another, and eventually he was mostly working on other people’s trucks. He had a gift for it.
Self-Taught Mechanic and Businessman
Daniel was a self-taught mechanic. And he was amazing. Then one day he decided to start his own business: Toops Performance. His family was so proud of him. Daniel’s business grew at a rate he never imagined. He bought a house with 5 acres and a barn, but quickly found out it wasn’t going to be big enough for his business.
Daniel contacted an Amish builder to create a new building for him. The owner of the company knew about Daniel and, with a deal built on a handshake, told Daniel he would construct him a building. Nothing was put in writing. The builder simply said, “We will get together soon about the money part.”
“One day when I was mowing his yard for him,” Daniel’s mother, Alison, remembers, “he said to me ‘Mom can you believe I have my own business and I’m doing so well?’ He said, ‘I can’t keep up!’ He was smiling from ear to ear! I told him yes, I can believe it, that’s what happens when you don’t give up on your dreams.”
“Daniel knew so much it was ridiculous!”
The year before his crash, Daniel was interviewed by Diesel World magazine. The article was about Daniel being a self-taught mechanic and how he built a truck from the frame up, to become one of the best pulling trucks in the circuit.
A well-known company in Indianapolis, Fleece Performance, asked Daniel to come and work for them. They knew how special Daniel was and how much he knew about the performance aspect of diesel trucks. But Daniel chose to stay in London, Ohio, and continue to build his business near his family.
Daniel was living his dream building motors, working on vehicles and participating in truck pulls and dirt drags. He loved everything about it and was so proud of what he’d accomplished.
A Great Life Cut Short
The day before Thanksgiving 2013, Daniel had been working all day and decided to meet some friends at a local bar and grill between 11 p.m. and midnight. There was a band playing and it was a busy night — Thanksgiving Eve.
Daniel and a group of friends decided to leave the restaurant and drive to another venue in Columbus. The driver of the pickup was supposed to be the designated driver for the night. He was driving, but he was not sober. In fact, his blood alcohol concentration was way over the limit.
Usually Daniel would drive his own vehicle because he was not a heavy drinker. His family doesn’t know why he didn’t drive that night. They just wish he had.
The group left the venue with five people in all: the driver; Daniel in the front passenger seat; and three in the back seat. Within five minutes of leaving, the driver started speeding and lost control. The pickup rolled over several times, ejecting everyone from the truck.
The driver and two other people came out with only scrapes and bruises. One passenger sustained life threatening injuries to his legs when the pickup landed on top of him.
The coroner said Daniel, 28, died instantly. It was horrific for the family. They endured a week-long trial for the death of Daniel and injuries to the others. The driver was convicted on multiple counts and sentenced to 14 years in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.
Everyone liked Daniel
More than 1,000 people attended Daniel’s viewing, and his friends organized a truck convoy to proceed to the church where his funeral was held. They even stopped traffic in town to let the trucks through.
One person after another told the family how much they liked and loved Daniel, and that he was always very helpful and knew so much about trucks. People said they were going to miss calling him on the phone and asking questions or advice on how to do something with a part of a truck.
In 2014, Daniel’s family started a Memorial Truck Pull and a Memorial Dirt Drag to honor his life and everything he accomplished. That year, more than 3,000 people attended the Truck Pull. His family was shocked by the attendance. It was so humbling. The success of the event was a great tribute to Daniel.
Today, Daniel’s family still has strong emotions about the crash.
“We are sad, mad and frustrated. There is no book to tell you how to cope with losing a son, brother, uncle and best friend. We believe an unforeseen loss is the worst loss you can ever endure,” his mother said.
Daniel had just become an uncle to his sister Ashley’s daughter, Rayne. Rayne was only 9 weeks old when Daniel died. Ashley went from talking to her brother everyday to suddenly not being able to ever talk to him again. They shared a lot together. He gave her tough love when needed and always made sure she was taken care of. It’s hard for the family to hear certain songs and not cry, and it’s hard for them to hear Ashley’s children talk about him and say they wish they could see him.
“One thing we do is make sure that they know who their Uncle Danny is. We try to explain it to people that it never gets easier, you just learn to live life a different way and with the memories you have,” said Alison. “One person’s selfish act resulted in the loss of a brother, uncle, friend and son. This person may be in prison now, but one day he will be set free and we will still be grieving. His family will welcome him home and continue with their lives, while our family will feel like it will never be whole again.”
“There are no words to explain the feeling of losing someone unexpectedly,” Alison says. “Keep your faith in God and keep your family close. Keep your memories alive, talk about them. It will help. It will take time. Pray for other families going through the same things as our family.”