Big-rigs collide in Calif interstate truck tunnel

Oct 24, 2012, 3:38 AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) – It took hours to pry a driver from his demolished big-rig after 10 trucks collided in chain-reaction crashes in an Interstate 5 bypass tunnel where three people died in a fiery crash five years ago, the California Highway Patrol said Tuesday.

Rain may have been a factor in the latest jumble shortly after 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Newhall Pass tunnel, 25 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, investigators said.

The Santa Clarita Valley Signal reported (
http://bit.ly/S2ksxw) the tunnel reopened more than 12 hours later, at about 4:15 p.m.

Officer F. Vargas told the newspaper a dump truck lost control on wet roads and spun out, causing a nine other 18-wheelers to collide.

The injured driver was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for two broken legs.

An investigation by The Associated Press found that more than a decade before the deadly pileup five years ago, authorities warned that the stretch of freeway was dangerous and steps should be taken to improve safety.

Highway officials cut grooves into the pavement to improve traction, but a state police request to routinely close the road in stormy weather was rejected, the AP found.

The state later raised the speed limit in the tunnel from 45 mph to 55 mph.

Tuesday’s crashes started when a big-rig spun out and jackknifed after traveling through the southbound tunnel just after 2 a.m. Three big-rigs traveling behind slammed into the wreckage, CHP Officer Mike Harris said.

Three other big-rigs managed to slow down and stop. But Harris said five other trucks, including a dump truck, collided in a second chain-reaction crash in the tunnel that has two lanes heading the same direction.

The driver of one truck was pinned, and it took firefighters more than three hours to get him out. He was hospitalized with injuries that Harris described as non-life threatening.

There was a minor diesel fuel spill and no fire.

The wreckage was expected to be cleared and the bypass reopened by 2 p.m. Tuesday

In the October 2007 crash, a truck driver speeding on the rain-slicked interstate crashed into a median barrier, setting off chain-reaction collisions that turned the tunnel into an inferno and left three dead. More than two dozen vehicles were involved.

The collisions closed the busy highway for two days and cost $17 million to clean up and repair.

Faulty brakes on the first truck and stormy weather contributed to the collision, but CHP investigators said excessive speed was the primary cause.

___

Information from: KTTV-TV,
http://www.fox11la.com/

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Big-rigs collide in Calif interstate truck tunnel