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Crashed and burned

Traffic: Charred wreckage on Highway 14 stalls commuters in triple-digit heat for hours

Posted: August 25, 2010 6:39 p.m.
Updated: August 26, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Authorities reported that a big rig carrying several cars collided into a Caltrans truck that was parked on the shoulder at 1:15 p.m.

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An explosive, fiery crash shut down Highway 14 for hours and sent a truck driver to the hospital Wednesday after his big rig, which was hauling several cars, reportedly collided with a parked Caltrans truck north of Sand Canyon Road, authorities said.

The driver, whose name has not yet been released, was taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital with undetermined injuries. The driver was conscious and moving after the crash, according to motorists stopped on the highway because of the wreck.

Two workers who were in the Caltrans truck that was stopped on the shoulder suffered minor injuries, a Caltrans supervisor said.

Clouds of thick black smoke billowing from the burning cab fanned out over all lanes of the highway, stopping traffic in both directions.

A loud explosion and bits of flying debris prompted some motorists to fear the worst for the driver.

“He was on the shoulder, and he got hit,” said investigating California Highway Patrol Officer Wellington Barger, regarding the Caltrans vehicle, as he stepped around debris scattered over 50 feet of highway.

At about 1:15 p.m., a Caltrans truck stopped on the shoulder in the northbound lanes was clipped by a car hauler fully loaded with eight cars, CHP officers confirmed.

The driver was trapped in his cab initially but managed to free himself to some extent by the time emergency crews arrived, said Inspector Frederic Stowers of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

“The driver was trapped but he was out of the vehicle when we got there,” he said.

His injuries were believed to be minor, Stowers said, while CHP Officer Bryan Cisek described the driver’s injuries as moderate.

Flames and smoke immediately engulfed the big rig’s cab, Stowers said. It took fire crews more than 20 minutes to douse the burning cab and put out the fire completely.

By then, the cab was reduced to a pile of black-and-gray smouldering char.

Four of the eight cars were totally burned, two on the top and bottom racks sustained fire damage to the front end. The two remaining cars — one on the top and a Mini Cooper on the bottom — appeared to be untouched by the collision or the fire.

Lindsay Kendryna was the first motorist to stop behind the burning big rig.

“I was so scared,” she said. “I heard a big boom, and then I saw big clouds of smoke and pieces just blown off.”

The blast jolted Kendryna’s 3-year-old daughter Kalli.

“She was crying when it happened,” Kendryna said.

Scores of motorists were suddenly stranded on the highway in triple-digit heat. Many had children with them; some were elderly.

Some motorists left their vehicles and walked up the ramp at Sand Canyon Road to buy cold drinks.

Temperatures registered at more than 105 degrees by car thermometers.

“If we’re here much longer, I’m going to have to go into the motor home and get some water,” said a gray-haired woman who sat in the passenger seat of her truck for more than two hours.

When Chaisa DuBrey, of Lancaster, was asked if she had water, she held up a water bottle.

“It’s so hot, it’s like tea,” she said. “It’s too hot for all of this.”

Carla Pullum, of Palmdale, said she was worried after hearing news reports on her car radio of severe thunderstorms down the highway near Palmdale.

“I thought I could pass the wreck when it happened,” she said.

Before the crash, the Caltrans workers were reportedly assigned to pick up trash along the highway, a supervisor said.

There was far more trash to collect after the collision.

Scores of DVDs were scattered among the debris of bottles and paper. Movie titles of DVDs scattered among the items included: “Transporter,” “The Great Escape,” “Shrek” and “Friday Night Lights.”

Southbound traffic stopped when the collision occurred, and then resumed at about 2 p.m.

Northbound motorists finally got moving after about two hours.

A CHP investigation is ongoing.

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