Calif. looks into crash involving more than 100 vehicles
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press
AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian
Rescuers attempt to extract drivers after more than 100 cars were involved in a series of collisions on a Calif. highway Saturday. At least two people were killed, the California Highway Patrol said.
FRESNO, Calif. — Micky Padilla of Porterville and his family were about 20 minutes away from reaching a baptism when they heard the sound of metal screeching. His wife struggled to make out what was ahead of them through the fog, and Padilla quickly hit the brakes when a trailer hauling turkeys swerved in front of them, sending feathers across her windshield.
As Padilla yelled at his sons to put their heads down, they rear-ended a Nissan Maxima and the car stopped next to the center divide.
Padilla ran out into the fog to see what had happened, and found a man bleeding in a white pickup on the other side of the trailer. He was still breathing minutes later when firefighters reached the wreck, but later died on the highway, Padilla said.
Two people were killed and dozens more injured in a massive morning pileup on Saturday that involved more than 100 cars and trucks, the California Highway Patrol said. Officials identified one of the victims as Travis Rogers, 26, and a 5-year-old boy, who were traveling in separate vehicles when the chain-reaction collisions occurred.
CHP Officer Paul Solorzano Jr. described the scene as "something out of a movie, walking up and seeing all the cars mangled and crushed."
While officials arrested 61-year-old Morris Taylor of San Antonio on misdemeanor drunken driving charges, the cause of the wreck is under investigation and may take months to determine, said CHP Officer Kirk Arnold.
"He has not been said to have been the cause of (the crash), he is just a person who was involved in the collision who was taken in for DUI," Arnold said.
Rescuers had to extract several people trapped in the wreckage, and paramedics transported more than three dozen patients to the hospital with injuries, Fresno City Fire Department spokesman Ken Shockley said.
The freeway's northbound lanes around Clovis Avenue were shut down indefinitely as investigators worked to determine the cause of the crash. Traffic backed up for miles south of the wreckage. Southbound lanes remained opened. The freeway was reopened at about 9:30 p.m.
Two of the big rigs leaked 90 gallons of diesel fuel onto the freeway when their fuel tanks ruptured, but the diesel was contained. No hazardous materials were spilled, CHP officials said.
Crash victims gathered on the freeway shoulder near the wreckage, waiting to be interviewed by investigators.
Cindy Ramirez, 21, of Selma, said her purple Mazda pickup was rear-ended as she was driving to her job washing windows in Shaver Lake.
"Everybody was trying to miss everybody, but it was impossible not to get hit," Ramirez said. "I'm fine physically, but I keep thinking about all of the things that could have happened."
Omar Macias, 33, was hauling asphalt from Bakersfield to Elk Grove when his truck was caught in the pileup.
"I got out to check on people at first, and then I heard more crashes around me, so I got right back in," said Macias of Bakersfield. "I feel OK, but I don't what OK means right now. People got hurt."
Even as investigators interviewed dazed drivers on the roadside, crews began sprinkling sand on the freeway and sweeping up shattered glass.
Thick seasonal fog known as "Tule fog" typically occurs in Central California in the late fall and winter. Two people died along a nearby stretch of fog-blanketed Highway 99 in an 87-vehicle pileup in 2002, and another section of the roadway several miles south was the scene of a 74-vehicle crash that left two dead nearly a decade ago.
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