November 9, 2008

Quadruple fatality collision shuts down I-40

California Highway Patrol officers investigate the scene of a 13-vehicle crash on Interstate 40 that claimed at least four lives Sunday. Officers at the scene said that three of the four were still inside the vehicle crushed under this semi truck as of 4 p.m. Staff photo by Abby Sewell

Wind may have been factor in 13-vehicle accident

Desert Dispatch

NEWBERRY SPRINGS • Four people were killed and four more injured in a collision that involved seven big rigs and closed Interstate 40 eastbound lanes Sunday, officials said.

As many as 13 vehicles were involved in the quadruple fatality accident that occurred at about 8:30 a.m., including seven tractor-trailers, three pick-up trucks with trailers, two SUVs and one sedan, said California Highway Patrol Officer Richard Vega. Four people in at least two vehicles died in the crash.

San Bernardino County Fire received a call about 9 a.m. about the multivehicle accident on the eastbound I-40 jus east of Fort Cady Road in the Newberry Springs area, said Tom Barnes, dispatch supervisor for San Bernardino County Fire.

“We had one semi that was off the road, and we had to do some extrication to get some of the patients out of the vehicles,” Barnes said.

One 18-wheeler was about 45 yards off the road with the driver trapped inside at 9:08 a.m., officials said.

Another vehicle was trapped under a tractor-trailer while diesel fuel was leaking at 9:02 a.m., officials said.

California Highway Patrol sent its multidisciplinary accident investigation team to the scene to investigate the cause of the accident, Vega said.

“Weather may have played a part in this collision,” Vega said. “There was a wind advisory in effect for this area and our officers were out making routine patrols through the area to check for dust storms.”

Winds gusted up to 49 mph at the Barstow-Daggett Airport on Sunday morning and visibility was significantly reduced along I-40, according to the National Weather Service. The wind advisory urged drivers to use extra caution Sunday.

Officers had no information about the identities of the four confirmed fatalities Sunday afternoon. Three of the four were still trapped inside a sedan that was severely crushed under the trailer of a semi truck as of 4 p.m., Lt. Chet Yun with the Barstow area CHP said.

Two patients with major injuries were transported by helicopter to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center at about 10:30 a.m., and two others with minor injuries were transported by ambulance to Barstow Community Hospital at about 10 a.m., Barnes said.

Yun said a series of collisions apparently started with one non-injury crash that stopped traffic behind it. Some vehicles rear-ended those in front of them, and others crashed while swerving in an attempt to avoid a collision, he said.

Units from Newberry Springs, the Marine Corps Logistics Base, and Daggett, Yermo and San Bernardino County fire departments were sent to the scene, Barnes said. Ambulances from Desert Ambulance Service, American Medical Response and County Fire, Lucerne Valley, also responded to the accident, he said.

Drivers traveling east in the area were rerouted onto National Trails Highway. As of 4 p.m., Vega said the accident investigation team expected to be on scene with the eastbound lanes of the interstate closed until late Sunday evening or early Monday morning.