Traffic came to a standstill in Rialto, California, following a multiple-fatality incident on February 16, 2018. The accident involved a cement pump truck that careened through a center divider and into oncoming traffic. Drivers caught in the stopped traffic from the crash attempted to take alternate routes around the accident scene. Some of those became stuck in the sand and required rescue.
The crash is one of the latest in California, the second-deadliest state in the U.S. for fatal large truck crashes, and is another tragic reminder of the deadly impact commercial vehicles can have on those they share the road with.
Cement Pump Truck Plowed Through Divider on the 10
California Highway Patrol (CHP) officials said that Rialto cement truck crash occurred just before 1:00 p.m. in the Riverside Avenue off-ramp area of the 10 Freeway, which is a common freeway for big-rig crashes. A six-axle cement pump truck was driving westbound when it veered into a metal guardrail, crashed through it and entered eastbound lanes into oncoming traffic. The truck crossed all eastbound lanes before coming to a stop.
Steve Carapia, a CHP officer who served as a spokesperson, said that five vehicles were involved in the accident, including motorcycle and a dump truck.
Albert Fuentes was at work at a nearby junkyard and said that two “boom” noises alerted him to the crash.
“Then you see all this smoke,” Fuentes told The Press-Enterprise.
The cement pump truck ended up on top of several of the vehicles involved in the accident, and vehicles began to catch fire as emergency personnel responded to the scene. Images from the aftermath of the Rialto cement truck crash show flattened debris from vehicles and charred wreckage.
“In my 10 years, it’s probably the most horrific [crash] I’ve been to,” Officer Carapia told KTLA 5.
CHP closed both eastbound and westbound lanes in the area. Drivers were able to use westbound lanes later that evening, but officials did not reopen eastbound lanes until the next morning.
Investigation into Truck Accident Ongoing and Reportedly Likely to Take Some Time
Not only was extensive clean-up required to remove accident debris from the freeway and make it safe for drivers, but investigators also needed ample time with no vehicles on the roadway to try to determine how the crash occurred.
“We want to be methodical and have enough time to investigate this accident,” Carapia told reporters.
CHP Sergeant Spencer Badal also addressed the incident to the media, adding that the report, “will take a considerable amount of time.”
Officials have not said whether drugs or alcohol were factors in the crash, nor why the driver may have veered into the eastbound lanes. CHP spokespeople noted that they will investigate the mechanical elements of the cement pump truck.
Western Concrete Pumping is the registered owner of the truck, but employees at the company’s office declined to comment on the crash. California is just one of the states in which Western Concrete Pumping does business, with others including Texas and Arizona.
Victims of Rialto Cement Truck Crash Still Being Identified
Some of the victims’ bodies were burned in the crash, and the coroner’s office was still working to identify victims as of February 17, 2018. Officials said that the unidentified cement pump truck driver was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries and that the driver of the dump truck involved in the crash was not injured. Those in commercial trucks often fare far better in truck accidents than those driving passenger vehicles.
Stepdaughter Tried in Vain to Reach Stepfather Following Truck Accident
One of the victims of the crash who has been identified by a family member was 74-year-old Duddley White, whose stepdaughter Maylette Brown saw news reports of the crash and noticed that the back of one of the cars shown looked familiar. Brown feared the worst and began calling White repeatedly, until, by 8:30 p.m., her calls started going directly to voicemail. Two hours later she received a call from the sheriff’s department.
“I just told them I knew, I felt it,” Brown said to the LA Times. “I just wanted to make sure.”
Brown told ABC7 in an interview that White was a retired father of four who had 15 grandchildren and cared for his disabled wife. She remembered him always being there for her.
“Not being my biological father, but just being my father was just more than I could ask for,” she said.
Drivers Attempting to Avoid 10 Freeway Traffic after Multi-Vehicle Crash Got Stuck in Nearby Sand
There was no movement for drivers stuck in the resulting traffic of the Rialto cement truck crash, and some tried anything they could to get out of the gridlock. Several vehicles exited the freeway on Slover Avenue and used a sandy area to attempt to free themselves from the standstill.
Colton Police Sergeant Ray Mendez said that a total of about six vehicles ended up stuck in the sand, but that others in vehicles with four-wheel drive came to their rescue. Mendez then positioned a police car with lights on at the area to dissuade other drivers from attempting the same thing and getting stuck.
GPS directions were believed to have contributed to the problem, reportedly telling drivers to take the route.
Other drivers who had been through the area earlier and missed the crash took to social media to share their close calls.
“I had just driven through this exact area, eastbound, about 15 minutes prior to the collision,” Lystra Wilson said on Facebook. “Thirty minutes, I drove by this horrific scene, westbound, praying for those involved, hoping there were no deaths…but there were. Tomorrow is not promised!”