UPDATE:Grapevine Open After Runaway Big Rig Accident

  • The northbound lanes of the Interstate-5 at the Grapevine were backed up from Gorman past the Fort Tejon exit ramp.

    The northbound lanes of the Interstate-5 at the Grapevine were backed up from Gorman past the Fort Tejon exit ramp.

UPDATE: (Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008, 5:15 p.m.) FRAZIER PARK—As of 4:55 p.m., CHP was still escorting northbound traffic in groups of 50 from the Lebec Road overpass through the Grapevine exit due to heavy fog, and traffic is backed up from at least Gorman. A big rig carrying corrosive hazardous materials lost its brakes just past the second runaway truck ramp on the downgrade of northbound I-5, hitting 11 vehicles and injuring about 27 people, according to Sean Collins of the Kern County Fire Department.

Fog did not appear to be a factor in the accident, Firefighter Collins said. Visibility was less than 100 feet from Fort Tejon to the bottom of the Grapevine and in some spots even less. Although there were no fatalities, nine victims were transported to local area hospitals in Valencia and Bakersfield, four via helicopter and five via ground ambulance. Twenty-five firefighters from Kern and Los Angeles Counties responded, but none of the injured required extrication from vehicles.

Reporters were told there was no leak or spill of the corrosive material from the big rig, but no one on scene or at the California Highway Patrol Lebec substation could say exactly what materials were being transported.

According to CHP’s Officer Ryan Patrick, most of the injured were from one van carrying 11 family members. “From the impact of hitting the first vehicle to where the truck finally stopped was 2,500 feet,” Officer Patrick said. Witnesses said the truck was going “about 40 miles per hour” at first and gradually picked up speed.—Reported by Katy Penland, The Mountain Enterprise

UPDATE: (Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008, 4 p.m.) FRAZIER PARK—The Interstate 5 northbound lanes across the Grapevine are again open, according to the CHP. Up to 11 vehicles are now reported to have been involved when a runaway big rig bearing hazardous materials hit several passenger vehicles, CHP Officer Patrick said. Kern County Fire Department’s Sean Collins said there were 27 injured, including several from a single van which carried 11 family members. Dense fog on the I-5 made helicopter evacuation of the injured impossible. It was necessary to transport victims to a staging area in Lebec near El Tejon School for evacuation to the hospital.

UPDATE: 2:35 p.m.—Nine vehicles plus one big rig involved. Big rig has been stopped in center divider. Fog too thick for air landings. Victims being taken by ground to Lebec for pickup by air ambulance, according to Captain Fletcher of Frazier Park Station 57.

Just before 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 31 a runaway big rig crashed into five vehicles in the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Fort Tejon, the California Highway patrol reports.

CHP says the truck driver is reported to have lost control just north of the Tejon truck emergency ramp. Traffic has stopped on the I-5 northbound while ambulances and CHP secure the accident scene.

This is part of the December 26, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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