Safety concerns are swirling in Sonoma County after a dump truck carrying a load of fire-damaged debris careened past a red light and into traffic at the bottom of a hill. Overloaded hauling trucks have been the focus of complaints in the area as the city works to clear the extensive debris from the recent wildfires.
Other truck crashes around the state—many fatal—also took place over the last weeks, demonstrating that safety challenges with commercial trucks are more widespread than just the well-known wine region.
Officials Investigating Whether Weight Was Factor in Santa Rosa Dump Truck Crash
February 5, 2018
A loaded dump truck that sped through a red light and into a busy intersection has led investigators to wonder whether overweight trucks hauling debris are a common issue in Sonoma County.
The dump truck was one of many in the area removing debris from the devastating October 2017 fires in the area. It was traveling down Fountaingrove Parkway with its load of an estimated 15 tons of debris at approximately 9:25 a.m. when it failed to stop at a stop light and entered the intersection.
“He was coming down the hill toward Mendocino and at the intersection he lost control of his truck and ended up colliding with a total of nine other vehicles,” Santa Rosa Police Lt. Rick Kohut said in a statement to The Press Democrat.
The truck’s fuel tank ruptured in the crash and diesel sprayed from the vehicle, causing it and other vehicles to catch fire. A total of six vehicles, including the dump truck, were ultimately engulfed, and emergency personnel would spend almost an hour battling the blaze into submission.
Six people suffered injuries in the Santa Rosa truck crash, and three of those were critically injured. Sixty-four-year-old Linda Holden and 72-year-old Cheryl Strong, both critically injured, were upgraded to fair condition two days after the accident, according to Vanessa DeGier, a spokeswoman for Memorial Hospital, where the women were treated.
The third critically injured individual, 76-year-old Barbara Schmidt, had been visiting the lot of the north Fountaingrove home that she and her wife shared before it was destroyed in the fire. Schmidt’s pickup truck was the first vehicle struck by the dump truck. She remains in critical condition.
Driver Says Brakes Failed
Forty-five-year-old Francisco Alberto Rodriguez was operating the dump truck at the time of the accident. Rodriguez told investigators that the vehicle’s brakes stopped functioning while he was driving down the hill.
That statement was not enough, however, for investigators to officially rule the cause to be the loss of brakes. They are still looking at how fast Rodriguez was going at the time and, perhaps more importantly, trying to determine the exact weight of the dump truck’s load. Drugs and alcohol have been ruled out as factors, and records show Rodriguez was only a few hours into his shift at the time of the crash.
Weight is a focal point in the investigation because similar accidents have occurred in the region and overloaded trucks have been recorded at the county landfill, which is operated by Republic Services. The company says it has alerted both drivers and contractors to the violations and feels that there has been some improvement.
Law enforcement officials in Sonoma have not addressed a weight issue with the debris trucks, but have said that they’re not equipped to inspect all the trucks and see if weight limits are being adhered to.
ECC is the government contractor overseeing cleanup efforts in the fire-damaged region and temporarily halted its operations for a review of safety practices following the Santa Rosa dump truck crash.
Gravel Truck Tips, Killing One in Yuba County
February 12, 2018
A 46-year-old Fairfield man is dead after he was crushed by a semi-truck that lost control. Nicolas Bishop was standing beside a Dodge Ram pickup on the Highway 70 on-ramp at Erle Road when the incident occurred at approximately 1:15 p.m. Officials believe the man had vehicle trouble, which was why he was outside the truck.
The semi-truck, which was hauling a load of gravel, was making a left turn onto the onramp when it flipped onto its right side, in the process hitting the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene. A 17-year-old was sitting in the passenger truck of the Dodge Ram and was uninjured in the accident.
California Highway Patrol (CHP) believe the semi-truck driver took the turn too fast, but have not said whether they will press charges.
One Fatality in Morongo Valley Truck Accident
February 7, 2018
Questions remain in a Morongo Valley incident that left a truck driver participating in a convoy dead.
The driver, 44-year-old Gregory William Cross, was operating a semi-truck hauling a generator and was joined by two other semi-trucks as well as CHP support, due to the oversized nature of the generator. The convoy was bound for Arizona when the accident happened at about 10:05 p.m.
CHP reports indicate the lead tractor-trailer, which was hauling the generator, jackknifed for unknown reasons and that Cross was somehow thrown from the truck. Officials pronounced Cross dead at the scene at 10:15 p.m.
Tow Truck Driver Was Asleep in 5-Car Crash in Santa Ana
February 5, 2018
Six people were hospitalized following a truck crash in Santa Ana that officials believe happened when a tow truck driver fell asleep at the wheel.
The driver, who remains unidentified, was driving in the 1100 N. Flower area at approximately 8:00 a.m. when he fell asleep and collided with a flatbed truck and a minivan. The accident set off a chain reaction with four more passenger vehicles affected. Six people from within those vehicles were injured, among them a 7-year-old. All six were treated at an area hospital.
Officials are still investigating the incident and have not yet ruled out drugs or alcohol as factors.