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UPDATE: 9 big rigs collide in Newhall Pass truck tunnel

Includes tunnel reopened, details of 2007 crash

Posted: October 23, 2012 8:44 a.m.
Updated: October 23, 2012 6:20 p.m.

Workers spread sand on spilled diesel fuel at the scene of a crash involving multiple big-rig trucks at the southbound Interstate 5 truck tunnel in the Newhall Pass that occurred in the early morning hours on Tuesday.

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 A 10-truck pileup inside the southbound Interstate 5 truck tunnel in the Newhall Pass injured one driver and shut down the truck route for more than 12 hours Tuesday.

Only one person was injured in the multi-truck collision — a trucker driving a big rig at the back of the pack who suffered two broken legs in the crash.

The lack of other injuries surprised emergency responders.

“The only injury we had was at the tail end of the whole collision,” one CHP officer observed.

The injured driver was extracted from his truck and taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, where he was reported in stable condition, CHP Officer John Lutz said.

In 2007, the southbound I-5 truck tunnel was the scene of a disastrous big-rig pileup and fire that killed two men and a boy and injured 31 people. That collision also occurred in October.

The tunnel was subsequently repaired with lighting inside.

Shortly after 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, four big rigs and a dump truck ran into each other in the south end of the tunnel, CHP officials said.

Three other trucks were able to avoid hitting the big rigs and came to a stop inside the tunnel, but five more trucks collided in the north end of the tunnel, Lutz said.

One truck leaked diesel fuel, but the leak was not major and Los Angeles County Fire Department crews were able to handle it, officials said.

The tunnel remained closed until 4:15 p.m. as crews worked to remove the smashed-up trucks and mop up the fuel spill.

One trucker reported lanes were slippery in the early morning hours as a light drizzle wet the pavement.

Traffic was heavier than usual during Tuesday morning rush hour south on the I-5 car lanes, but there were no major problems reported, CHP officials said.

CHP officials on the scene of the crash Tuesday morning said initial reports indicated the driver of a dump truck touched off the chain-reaction collision.

“There was a dump truck that lost control and got turned all the way around,” said CHP Officer F. Vargas.
Nine other trucks, all 18-wheelers, piled up inside the tunnel.

Two of the trucks jack-knifed in opposite directions, completely blocking the tunnel — one with its nose against the west wall, the other with its front end against the east wall.

A double-trailer FedEx truck sustained significant front-end damage just ahead of the two jack-knifed trucks.

A tractor-trailer hauled away from the front of the FedEx truck sustained back-end damage, its rear loading door ripped from the frame.

Tom Cowan, a worker called in to help with the cleanup, said the most damaged trucks were the FedEx truck and a food truck.

“There was a truck hauling some kind of frozen food that was in the worst shape; the rest of them just backed up on each other,” he said.

“It was just a big cluster of tangled trucks.”

As he picked his way through piles of broken metal and debris, he reflected on the injured driver: “He’s lucky.”

On the rainy night of Oct. 12, 2007, two truck drivers and one driver’s 6-year-old son were killed when 34 vehicles piled up in the southbound I-5 tunnel and flames erupted, burning at 1,800 degrees for more than 30 hours.

At least one of the drivers was burned alive, his family said in a lawsuit against Caltrans a trucking company whose driver was blamed for the collision.

The southbound I-5 was shut down until Oct. 15 for workers to clear debris and inspectors to determine the pavement above was safe to drive on.

A contractor was hired with emergency funding to repair the tunnel, with improvements made to make it safer.
The tunnel was reopened in November 2007. While it previously had no lights, the repaired tunnel included lighting and improved pavement. In addition, the speed limit was reduced.

jholt@the-signal.com
661-287-5527

 

 

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