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Year in Review: Year marred by crashes on one ‘dangerous’ stretch

Posted: December 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Three vehicles are stacked on the center divider at a traffic collision on the southbound 14 freeway south of Escondido Canyon Road on June 26.

 

The Santa Clarita Valley saw hundreds of traffic collisions in 2012 but only one stretch of roadway was actually deemed “dangerous” after emergency crews responded to a 19-car pileup on southbound Highway 14 near Escondido Canyon road, in Acton.

On June 26, at least 18 people were injured in a multivehicle collision after a big rig barreled into several cars halted during a traffic stop to remove debris in the roadway, officials said at the time.

No one was seriously injured, said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Frank McCarthy. Of the 18 injuries, three individuals were treated at the scene and not transported to a hospital, he said.

The other 15 were taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Palmdale Regional Medical Center, Antelope Valley Hospital or Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.

“They’re very lucky,” McCarthy said of the motorists. “This is a dangerous stretch of road.”

The motorists had been stopped by a CHP officer to avoid hitting metal on the freeway when a big rig heading down the hill failed to stop, officers said. The truck slammed into the stopped vehicles.

Since then, debris on the freeway — particularly at Escondido Canyon Road — has not gone unnoticed.

Month of crashes

Less than a week after the pileup, CHP was again called to Escondido Canyon Road — not once but twice.

On July 2, standing on the same stretch of road where stood untangling cars from the pileup, CHP investigated two other collisions, one of the north side and one on the south side of the bend.

The first crash saw two cars collide in the southbound lanes.

CHP officers found a green Ford Focus on its roof on the right shoulder and another car in the center median.

The second crash happened less than two hours later in the northbound lanes when two cars collided. The case is still considered a hit-and-run.

Three weeks later, bales of hay fell off the back of a truck making its way down the 14.

They fell onto the freeway just as the truck was passing Escondido Canyon Road, according to CHP officers at the time.

At least three vehicles hit the bales of hay — one of them being a white Chevy van with five children on board.

The van hit the hay bale and managed to pull over to the side of the road.

Moments later, two other vehicles hit hay bales near Acton.

“Dangerous” stretch

A month later, on Aug. 22, a motorist suffered head injuries when his car rolled several times on Highway 14 at the same “dangerous” bend.

He was traveling south on Highway 14 when the left rear tire on his Volkswagen Beetle blew out and he lost control, California Highway Patrol Officer J. Figueroa said at the time.

“It was at the exact same spot as the pileup,” he told The Signal.

“That is a very dangerous, dangerous corner there.

“The guy was coming down the 14 when he loses a tire on the left rear side,” he said. “He tried to slow down, but he spun out and went sideways.

“He hit the curb and he doesn’t remember how many times he rolled the car.”

Figueroa found the car on its roof, leaking gasoline, on the right shoulder, he said.

Some southbound motorists traveling behind the bug pulled over to help its driver.

On Oct. 18, two cars collided on Highway 14 near Escondido Canyon Road.

CHP officers were called that morning to a crash involving a red Jeep and a black sedan that collided in the northbound lanes of Highway 14 near Escondido.

No one was injured.

On Dec. 17, CHP officers responded to reports from motorists that a small black refrigerator was sitting in the northbound fast lane of Highway 14, just north of Escondido Canyon Road.

Responding officers caught up with the owner of the fridge driving a gray Toyota Tundra.

No one was injured and no collision occurred as a result, but CHP officers treated the call seriously.

All the highway crashes near Escondido this year — fortunately — have not ended fatalities.

One CHP investigator, however, may still link the “dangerous” stretch of road to at least one death.

Fatality probe

CHP investigator Lt. Antonio Caballero is still trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of an elderly Arleta man found dead next to his car off a remote Acton road in April.

The one thing Caballero said he knows for sure — 87-year-old Thomas George Dennis “drove up the 14 and ended up on Escondido (Canyon Road),” he said back in April.

Dennis lived alone in a boxy home on Roslyndale Avenue in Arleta not far from Interstate 5.

“He left his home in Arleta and was getting his taxes done by a lady in Sun Valley,” Caballero said in April.

Dennis’ Sun Valley destination was about three miles from his home, which he left the evening of Friday, April 13.

“She said ‘goodbye’ to him and watched him get into his car” following the tax session, Caballero said of the Sun Valley resident.

“He then drove up the 14 and ended up on Escondido (Canyon Road),” some 35 miles away from his San Fernando Valley home, the lieutenant said.

Dennis’ car, a 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix, was found Monday morning April 16 in a shallow ravine amid heavy brush off Escondido Canyon Road and Highway 14. It could not be seen from either the freeway or the roadway.

After the vehicle left the road and rolled over, “We think he crawled out of his car and died of the injuries,” Caballero said. “And we think he was on the roadway for at least 12 hours before he was found.”

jholt@signalscv.com

661-287-5527

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