Duane O’Connor ran a wrecker service in Eureka Springs for 25 years, pulling vehicles out of holes and from over bluffs, helping people stuck in the mud, snow and ice in the middle of the night. He even helped a bus out of St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church. His first wrecker was a red, one-ton, 4-wheel drive 1946 Dodge Power Wagon he bought in 1955. Later, he purchased larger, more modern wrecker trucks, most of them red as well.
One winter, Duane and Tommy Walker drove out west of town to get a car that had slid off US 62. They left the wrecker parked on the ice-covered asphalt and were going down to hook onto the car when they heard a noise. They turned just in time to see the big parked wrecker sliding off the road towards them.
In the 1950s there was a circus coming through on US 62 from the west, and state police had Duane O’Connor and his wrecker on standby at the top of the mountain at Inspiration Point in case any of the old rattle-trap circus trucks couldn’t make it up the hill. When the truck carrying the elephants made it to the top, Duane was sent home and from then on, the elephants pulled the trucks that had trouble.
When Bill Clinton was first elected governor, he visited Eureka and his state trooper driver locked the car keys in the state Cadillac on Spring Street across from Basin Park. The trooper came to Duane and asked for help, stating they’d have to hurry as they only had 30 minutes before the governor had to be somewhere. Duane was able to break into the car and retrieve the keys.
Duane has an album full of pictures of bent, buckled and smashed cars, photographs taken by Michael Mountjoy and Wayne Brashear over the years, at just a few of the many wrecks he worked. And all these years later, the accidents that Duane O’Connor remembers most distinctly are those in which people were seriously injured or killed.
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