Big-rig crash spawns big traffic mess

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An out-of-control big rig keeled over onto U.S. Highway 101 on Tuesday morning, causing a seven-vehicle pileup that injured four people and snarled commuter traffic for more than two hours.

The collision occurred about 9:50 a.m. in the northbound lanes just south of Woodside Road, a stretch of highway that has suffered at least three major tractor-trailer collisions in the last year.

In January, a big-rig that was clipped by a minivan crashed and spilled approximately 1,600 gallons of fuel, forcing full closure of several northbound lanes for a handful of days. In May 2007, a big rig swerved out of control and burst into flames on southbound Highway 101. Debris from the crash killed a driver.

In Tuesday’s crash, 25 to 35 gallons of fuel leaked from the big rig but was cleaned up before noon. All lanes were cleared by early afternoon, said Sgt. Grace Castillo, CHP spokeswoman.

The traffic artery — which carries an estimated 200,000 cars per weekday in San Mateo County — was backed up for miles. Drivers were diverted more than one mile away to Marsh Road to access Interstate Highway 280.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, 40-year-old Singh Dev, told CHP officers that he was in the far right lane when a car ahead of him abruptly slowed down, forcing him to slam on the brakes and lose control. His big rig, tugging two empty trailers that usually haul sand and gravel, slid across all highway lanes before it was jackknifed by an oncoming van, Castillo said. The overturned big-rig blocked nearly all lanes of traffic and caused a chain-reaction crash involving five more cars, she said.

The four people who were injured in the wreck suffered only minor injuries — mainly scrapes, bruises and complaints of bodily pain — and were sent to Stanford Medical Center for treatment, Castillo said. Dev was uninjured. Standing along the center-divider and overlooking the pile of mashed up cars and debris strewn across the roadway, the visibly shaken trucker said he was relieved that no one died.

“I thought I was going to roll all the way over … it was so scary,” said Dev, who drives for Hayward-based Mag Trucking.

One of the drivers involved inthe wreck, Gangadhar Kondura, 30, of Mountain View, said he braked to avoid hitting the tractor-trailer but was then struck from behind by another vehicle. The impact forced his head into the windshield, but he said he only suffered a bruise on his forehead.

Castillo said the accident remains under investigation.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Big-rig accidents are no small potatoes

There have been three major big-rig collisions on the stretch of U.S. Highway 101 near Woodside Road in a year’s time.

Tuesday

A big-rig truck hauling two empty trailers loses control on Highway 101 south of Woodside Road and is jackknifed by a mini-van. The crash causes a seven-vehicle pileup that leaves four people with minor injuries.

January 2008

A big-rig fuel truck flips and spills about 1,600 gallons of gasoline on Highway 101 between Woodside Road and Whipple Avenue, raising fears of a massive explosion. There were no injuries.

May 2007

A southbound big rig swerves out of control and bursts into flames on Highway 101 near Woodside Road. Debris from the crash damages three other cars and kills a driver.

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