A woman is dead and a driver arrested after a rented box truck from Monarch Truck Center hit a string of cars waiting at a Bay Bridge toll booth and then the toll booth itself, destroying the structure. Transportation workers along with responsible motorists are especially susceptible to the dangers of truck accidents caused by drivers who are under the influence, tired or reckless.
Multi-Vehicle Collision Sparked by Truck Completely Destroys Toll Booth
The crash occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 2, 2017, as 46-year-old Si Si Han was just minutes into her shift inside the No. 14 toll booth on the Bay Bridge in California. Daniel Berk, a 32-year-old Foster City man, was driving a rented box truck and had another passenger in the vehicle with him when, at 5:11 a.m., he slammed into traffic waiting to pay tolls and then collided with the No. 14 toll booth. Images from the scene show the toll booth destroyed and the devastating wreckage surrounding it, and video of the bridge in the hours after shows the resulting traffic standstill.
Han was killed inside her booth, while Berk and his passenger were ejected from the box truck as it broke apart in the impact. Both Berk and the unidentified passenger have been described as being “badly hurt” and were taken to Oakland’s Highland Hospital for treatment. Berk was still being treated at the hospital on December 3, 2017, and California Highway Patrol (CHP) spokesman, Officer Matthew Hamer, said Berk would likely remain at the hospital for about a week. Berk’s passenger was treated and released.
Berk’s box truck collided with five other vehicles on the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge before demolishing the toll booth. The occupants of those cars were treated at nearby hospitals and released.
Caltrans Employee Was Not Scheduled to Work the Day of the San Fransico – Oakland Bay Bridge Truck Accident
It was a tragic twist of fate that Han, a 10-year California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) employee, was even working the morning of the fatal truck accident. She had not been on the schedule, but had received a call from her supervisor around 3:30 a.m. asking if she could assist at the Bay Bridge toll booth because of a sick co-worker, and should come in half an hour before the usual start time of 5:30 a.m. Ryan Saw, Han’s husband, said that she didn’t hesitate and immediately got ready to go to work. Had she not accepted the shift or the earlier start time, Han would not have been working when the accident occurred.
“She just always lived to help other people,” Saw said in a phone interview with the East Bay Times. “That’s why she went in to work. If somebody needed something, she went. She wasn’t on the schedule, she didn’t have to do it. But that’s who she was.”
Itala Portal, Han’s co-worker, remembered her equally fondly.
“I called her my China doll. Rain or shine, she always had a beautiful smile on her face,” Portal said in an interview with KTVU. “She was so beautiful.”
Han leaves also leaves behind a 10-year-old daughter named Ashly.
Fundraiser for Victim of the Box Truck Accident Raised Almost $10,000 in One Day
Saw set up a fundraiser for Han three days after the fatal Bay Bridge toll booth truck crash in hopes of raising money toward the funeral costs, the lost family income and Ashly’s future, which Saw said Han had hoped would include higher education.
Only one day after setting up the GoFundMe account, $9,667 of the $25,000 goal had been raised.
As Saw wrote about the grief of losing his wife, he also touched on Han’s dedication to her family, saying:
Si Si was such a sweet and generous woman. She constantly made sacrifices to support her family, especially her young daughter. Si Si specifically worked early morning shifts in order to spend time with her family the remainder of the day.
Union Responds to Bay Bridge Toll Booth Truck Crash
Busy Bay Bridge traffic resumed on Monday, December 4, 2017, though the No. 14 booth will remain closed indefinitely. Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said that grief counselors were available to employees, some of whom witnessed the shocking crash themselves.
“It was just as one shift was ending and another was beginning,” Haus said. “So quite a few actually saw. They are understandably traumatized. They will need a lot of help and support over the next several days.”
Han’s name will join a plaque honoring the 36 other Caltrans employees who have been killed in district 4—a stark reminder of the risks of the job, a danger that is never far from employees’ minds.
“It’s tough but we have to handle it day to day,” toll worker Renaldo Iglesias responded when asked by ABC7 News if he felt safe at work. “But you know, I can’t say if it’s safe or not. But we leave it upstairs.”
Multiple Charges Against Box Truck Driver
Berk was arrested on the day of the Bay Bridge toll booth truck crash and charged with driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, though Officer Vu Williams with the CHP said that the investigation into the crash and its cause is still underway.
“We’re investigating exactly why the driver lost control and struck the toll plaza,” Williams said in an interview with SF Gate (as quoted in Time). “So we’ve got to determine all the factors involved, including impairments, medical issues or mechanical issues.”
Williams said they were uncertain at what speed the box truck was moving when the crash occurred, but that it “wasn’t slow speed,” and other CHP officers have said they don’t believe that Berk attempted to slow down before striking the stationary traffic and toll booth, as there were no skid marks.
Driver of Box Truck Rented from Monarch Truck Center Had History of Drug Possession
No information has been given as to whether the substance Berk, who works as a stage tech engineer, is suspected of having taken was alcohol or drugs. The box truck contained audio and lighting equipment, seeming to indicate that Berk was on his way to or from a job when he crashed.
Berk was convicted of possessing methamphetamine in 2013 and with possession of stolen property in 2014, according to San Mateo County Superior Court records.
Kenny McCain had worked with Berk in the Bay Area and said that he couldn’t believe it when he heard about the incident.
“I’ve never seen him drink, so that was a little strange to me,” McCain said in an interview with the SF Chronicle. “I thought he must’ve fallen asleep at the wheel. The whole thing was a shock to me.”