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A crumpled big rig smashed into the rear of this yellow and white Freightliner, causing injuries and a fire, closing all lanes of Interstate 5 as emergency crews waited for a Medevac helicopter to arrive. Lebec's John and Chris Hughes managed to get the drivers out of the trucks. [photo by The Mountain Enterprise]
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The fire turned to black smoke, making it an urgent situation for getting Philip Freer, 48 out of the cab. Here, you can see the flatbed on which Freer was hauling stacks of 20 foot long pipes. The cab of his tractor is all the way into the back of the other truck (causing the fire seen here). The front truck was carrying flammable wood chips. Traffic began stacking up in the northbound lanes as Medevac was enroute for this two-truck accident a half mile south of Grapevine Road. [photo by The Mountain Enterprise]
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John and Chris Hughes helped save the lives of the drivers involved in the the big rig collision. Their 1991 Ford Ranger truck and the chain shown here were used to pull the door off the big rig to rescue one man from the fire. The towels and gas can in the back of the truck were used to elevate the trucker's severely burned legs. John received burns to his own leg. Both men were grateful to have been able to help, they said Thursday night in an interview. [Barbara Hughes photo]
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Firefighters work to put out the fire that engulfed the cab of the truck carrying metal pipes. It rammed into the back of a big rig carrying wood chips at about 1:20 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6. Pipes scattered across the road, delaying access by firefighters and ambulance crews. Here the Kern County Fire Department finishes putting out the blaze. You can see some of the pipe on the road that were being carried by Freer's rig.
Two men from Lebec, California rescued a truck driver from a burning big-rig cab on January 6, 2011. Emergency crews were unable to reach the scene for 30 minutes while the two men tried to figure out how to save the driver. [video by The Mountain Enterprise newspaper, Frazier Park, California]
UPDATE-FRAZIER PARK, CA (Friday, Jan. 7 at 10:20 a.m.)—Philip Frear, 48 who was freed from his burning truck by Lebec residents after the crash yesterday, has now been moved to the Leon S. Peters Burn Center of the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. He has critical injuries and "is in extremely critical condition," according to staff there.
Chris and John Hughes of Los Padres Estates in Lebec were on the scene when the truck exploded down the Grapevine at 100 miles per hour and crashed into another freightliner at the bottom of the grade, erupting in a fiery explosion that sent 20 foot iron pipes sailing across the freeway for hundreds of feet. Traffic was held up for hours. Frear was medevaced to Kern Medical Center, then to the burn center in Fresno.
UPDATE-LEBEC, CA (Friday, Jan. 7, 2011 at 9:50 a.m.)—The names of the drivers have been released. Philip Frear, 48 of Spring, Texas was driving a 2002 Freightliner that began losing its brakes near El Tejon School on the Grapevine. His truck smashed into the rear of a 2007 Freightliner driven by Raymundo Lopez, 52 of Delano, CA. Both were transferred to Kern Medical Center.
UPDATE-LEBEC, CA (Friday, Jan. 7, 2011 at 6 a.m.)—Northbound Interstate 5 lanes are clear again after a fiery crash that sent two big-rig drivers to the hospital, one with severe burns. The Mountain Enterprise interviewed two men from Lebec last night who were on the scene when the accident happened. John and Chris Hughes pulled the drivers from the trucks and got them away from the fire. They said that emergency first responders were held back due to 20-foot metal pipes that were spilled across the road during the accident. Kern County Fire Department was there in about 15 minutes, they estimate, and ambulance response took about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, at the scene, John Hughes helped control traffic and Chris Hughes and other motorists worked to comfort the burned man.[See photo 3 above.]
More details, video and photos will be available here shortly, with the full report in the print issue of The Mountain Enterprise next week.
UPDATE-LEBEC, CA (Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 at 6:02 p.m.)—Lane numbers one and two are open at the truck collision site on northbound I-5 near Grapevine Road, according to CHP. Estimated time for lanes three and four to open is one to two hours.
UPDATE-FRAZIER PARK, CA (Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 at 5:02 p.m.)–A hit and run collision on I-5 just north of Gorman School was reported by a party who is northbound and is now south of Fort Tejon, approaching the truck accident. No injuries were reported in this incident.
UPDATE-LEBEC, CA (Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 at 4:30 p.m.)—All southbound I-5 lanes on the Grapevine are open. CHP is sending a towing service to make a "wrong way" approach to the scene of the big rig crash in the northbound lanes. CHP is also about to announce estimates regarding when a second northbound lane will open.
Sean Collins, from the Kern County Fire Department has provided this background about the accident:
At approximately 1:15 p.m., the Kern County Fire Department responded to a vehicle collision involving 3 semi-trucks. Approximately 12 Kern County firefighters responded to the incident including a water tender from Bakersfield.
Upon arrival, crews were faced with a semi-truck carrying large diameter steel pipe which was embedded into the rear of a second semi-truck carrying woodchips. The steel pipe was scattered over the roadway and both vehicles were on fire. 2 victims were injured in the accident; both were treated by firefighters before the arrival of paramedics. One victim was transported by air ambulance in a critical condition suffering trauma and burn injuries. The 2nd victim was transported by ground ambulance with minor injuries. A 3rd semi-truck was stopped further along the freeway. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire before it became established in the woodchips.
There were no reported injuries to firefighters.
The Kern County Fire Department was assisted by the California Highway Patrol who is investigating the cause of the accident.
LEBEC, CA (Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 at 3:18 p.m.)–CHP reports that traffic breaks for northbound I-5 will begin in Gorman and soon will start at Hwy 138. Mountain communities residents commuting home from Los Angeles may want to take side roads such as Gorman Post Road off of Hwy 138, then from Gorman take Peace Valley along west side of the freeway.
LEBEC, CA (Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.)–CHP reports that traffic is backed up six miles, one mile south of Fort Tejon. CHP units are unable to escort the tow trucks through traffic to the accident site.
LEBEC, CA (Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 at 2:14 p.m.)–Northbound I-5 lane numbers one and two are expected to open at approximately 2:30 p.m. Lanes three and four may be closed for several hours. According to CHP reports, passersby attempted to pull the pinned-in driver from his burning cab. One of the trucking companies involved is Darrell Green Trucking, according to preliminary CHP reports.
LEBEC, CA (Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 at 1:45 p.m.)–A collision of two big rig trucks has stopped all northbound lanes of Interstate 5, just a half mile south of Grapevine Road. One semi tractor-trailer was in flames at about 1:30 p.m. according to a Mountain Enterprise reporter who was on scene. Medevac was enroute for major burn and fracture injuries, according to fire department reports.
This is part of the January 07, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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