Big rig’s tumble snarls Peninsula traffic

Even though he was parked almost 200 yards away, Nader Moavenian’s car was one of four vehicles damaged when a big rig overturned and burst into flames just before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Moavenian’s Nissan Maxima was parked in the shade outside Globalware Solutions when one of the truck’s right front tires — propelled by the crash — smashed into the trunk of his car and shattered the adjacent office window.

“That was quite a distance it traveled. I still don’t know how it happened,” Moavenian said.

The accident occurred when a Trevis Berry Transportation truck carrying approximately seven pallets of cardboard swerved out of control on southbound U.S. Highway 101 at the Woodside Road overpass in Redwood City, crashing into the center divide and landing on its right side before bursting into flames, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Eric Parsons.

Two people were hurt in the accident, both of them women injured by flying debris while traveling northbound in a silver Lexus sport utility vehicle. The driver was airlifted to Stanford Medical Center with serious injuries and the passenger was taken by ambulance to Stanford with minor injuries.

A second car, a Toyota Camry, was struck by debris, but the lone occupant was not injured.

The recently hired driver of the truck, 50-year-old Carlos Velasquez — who was able to walk away from the crash with his passenger — said he lost control in the right-most lane, swerved and braked to avoid hitting a small car, and then crashed into the center divide.

The accident resulted in massive traffic congestion along the Peninsula, as cars backed up for miles after the accident. Hours later, southbound 101 took on an eerie post-apocalyptic feel when CHP efforts to divert traffic away from the site left long stretches empty at rush hour. Southbound motorists were forced to exit the freeway andnavigate surrounding streets.

All eight lanes of the highway were closed just after 1 p.m. to allow the Life Flight helicopter to land. By 2 p.m. all but the left-most lane on the northbound side were open but southbound lanes were still mostly closed. A single southbound lane was open intermittently between 1 and approximately 5:30 p.m. as Caltrans and towing crews worked to remove the charred husk of the truck. All lanes were reopened around 5:30 p.m.

Foster City resident Phil Wong was one of hundreds of drivers trapped in line as crews worked to clear the road. His onboard navigation system’s estimate of an 8-minute drive to Palo Alto was off by approximately 90 minutes.

The owner of the Gilroy-based trucking company, Trevis Berry, said the driver was traveling to Santa Clara from South San Francisco, and Velasquez was being shown the ropes after his recent hiring.

Although this is not his company’s first accident, Berry said, it was disturbing because of the severity of the injuries suffered by the other motorists.

jgoldman@examiner.com

Staff writer Tara Ramroop contributed to this report.


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