Friday, October 11, 2013

'Blood Alley' Hwy 12 Claims Another In Head-on Collision

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1 killed in head-on collision on Hwy. 12

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Emergency crews work Thursday at the scene of a head-on fatal collision involving a big rig and a pickup on Highway 12.CLIFFORD OTO/The Record
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Joe Goldeen
BOULDIN ISLAND - A 39-year-old man driving a black Chevrolet Silverado pickup westbound on Highway 12 west of Interstate 5 died Thursday morning after crossing into the opposing lane and colliding head-on with a big rig carrying household goods.
The crash occurred around 7:45 a.m. on a straight, two-lane rural stretch of the trans-Delta highway about 10 miles west of I-5 and a half-mile east of the Tower Bridge over the Mokelumne River. It closed traffic in both directions for more than three hours between I-5 and Highway 160 at Rio Vista.
Traffic was being diverted to Interstate 80 in the north and Highway 4 in the south.
The pickup driver died at the scene. His identity was not provided pending family notification.
The accident was so severe it required the use of a Hurst hydraulic spreader operated by Woodbridge Fire District firefighters to free the victim from the wreckage.
Following the crash, the 32-year-old big-rig driver was seen walking around the scene "conscious and alert" and was transported by ambulance to an area hospital for observation, according to Woodbridge Fire Chief Steve Butler.
Witnesses told the California Highway Patrol the pickup driver was traveling steadily with westbound traffic at about 60 to 65 miles per hour when, for an unknown reason, he drifted into the eastbound lane about 200 feet in front of the eastbound big rig.
Immediately upon impact, the big rig pushed the pickup back into the westbound lane before coming to a stop with its upright trailer blocking both lanes, Officer Dan Sepulveda said.
A third vehicle, attempting to avoid the collision, drove off the roadway down an embankment. The driver of that vehicle was not injured, according to the CHP.
Sepulveda said it could not be determined if the pickup simply drifted into the opposite lane or was attempting to pass another vehicle.
In a few years, there will be a concrete barrier separating the lanes of oncoming traffic where the collision took place. Set to begin construction next spring, the $47 million Bouldin Island Rehabilitation Project would make improvements along about 5 miles of road east of the bridge. In addition to the barrier, it would widen shoulders and make other improvements. It is expected to be completed in 2017.
The big rig, owned by National Van Lines of Broadview, Ill., was being operated out of Pittsburg and was heading to the truck scales in nearby Flag City at I-5, according to fellow National Van Lines driver David Davi, who arrived on the scene just minutes after the crash.
Davi said Art was the first name of the driver of the big rig but declined to give his full name. "Art is our friend. He was shaken up but he's OK. He said the pickup just jumped out right in front of him."
Davi, who drives the Delta stretch of Highway 12 regularly, knows it's dangerous.
"You always hear about accidents. You've got to be alert and awake," he said.
Reporter Zachary K. Johnson contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 Visit his blog

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