SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) — Nine people were injured, two of them critically, in a crash involving 20 vehicles and a big rig that burst into flames on Highway 1 in Santa Cruz Tuesday morning, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The crash was reported at 9:52 a.m. on northbound Highway 1 in the area of River Street.
CHP investigators said the truck was carrying clay from San Jose when somehow lost its brakes as it came down Highway 17 onto Highway 1 traveling northbound.
The crash resulted the closure of all northbound lanes.
The fully-loaded big rig carrying clay apparently had brake failure when it plowed into stopped traffic waiting at a red light, hitting 20 different vehicles, a CHP officer said.
“Preliminary investigation reveals the brakes went out. Witnesses observed the tires smoking on the vehicle.” said CHP Officer Grant Boles. “There were numerous injuries, with two or three critical taken to area hospitals.”
The big rig eventually stopped after hitting vehicles and guardrails along 1,000 feet of roadway, said Boles.
“He was essentially out of control, so he’s going 40 to 50 miles an hour just clipping cars,” said Boles. “He just came through and plowed through all the cars … Most of the vehicles were struck from behind and pushed out of the way.”
Boles said that brake failure for big-rig trucks traveling down Highway 17 is not uncommon.
“We’ve seen this with big rigs coming down Highway 17 either overloaded or not using their brakes properly, which would result in a brake failure,” said Boles.
The northbound lanes of Highway 1 were closed immediately after the crash and remained shut down for over five hours. Officials announced that the northbound lanes reopened shortly after 3:30 p.m.
The two people critically injured were expected to survive, said Boles. One person was treated and released at the scene, the Santa Cruz fire department said.
A total of nine people were hurt.
Despite the dramatic damage at the scene, everyone is expected to survive their injuries, including the driver who Good Samaritans pulled out of their burning car.
One of the drivers hit said he first heard the sound of the crash before it reached his vehicle.
“There was a lot of traffic and both lanes were stopped a good ways back and I heard first the crashing and I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the tractor trailer coming through at a really high speed and it was just running into cars and bouncing off cars,” said Santa Cruz resident David Heller. “I knew I was going to get hit … then it came through and caught fire and kept driving for quite a ways … He was going really fast.”
The CHP estimated northbound Highway 1 would be reopened by 3 p.m., but authorities had not made any announcement as of that time. Motorists were advised to expect delays and to use alternate routes to avoid the area.
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