A tanker truck carrying over 8,000 gallons of gasoline crashed in Atwater (outside of Merced) on May 23, killing the driver and sparking a massive fire. The investigation of the crash is still ongoing, but the driver appears to have lost control and overturned the tanker while exiting Highway 99 to make a delivery nearby. The load immediately burst into flames, and it’s been reported by some witnesses that the truck was already on fire before the crash.
Dramatic, Terrifying Situation
You’ve probably seen some of the photos and video from the crash scene. Huge fireballs billowed above the site and at least two explosions were reported. Workers and customers in nearby businesses fled, describing a wave of fire caused by the gasoline as it spilled down the street. The tanker was left in charred fragments as lampposts and street signs were melted and the road itself was damaged by the blaze. A nearby McDonald’s suffered direct damage from the fire, and at least one other vehicle was burned almost beyond recognition.
This latest trucking crash, along with another fiery truck crash, an overturned load, and a fatal car accident—all in the same week—add to Highway 99’s bad reputation: Last year, one organization declared it to be the most dangerous highway in the United States.
Businesses Optimistic for Recovery
Several businesses on the street were forced to close after the crash, but most reopened within two days. Unfortunately, those businesses depend on traffic from the freeway, and a week after the crash that exit remained closed.
The owner of a gas station at that exit estimated business was down by 50 percent, and others might have been doing worse, but they seemed optimistic that things would pick up again, especially if the road is repaired soon. The exit was closed over the busy Memorial Day weekend holiday, which cost many of them still more. CalTrans has not issued an estimate for when the exit will reopen.
While the driver had a spotless record, the trucking company’s history is not so pristine. Public records show the company has had twenty-one collisions since 2015, including two fatal crashes. The company says it is cooperating with authorities and will not discuss the crash publicly until the investigation has been completed.
Truck safety has been a growing concern in recent years. At the beginning of May, SCPR produced a lengthy story on the growing number—and growing cost—of truck crashes in Southern California. Truck traffic has been increasing, as has the expense of major accidents: Nationally, the total cost of a large truck accident is around $7 million (five times that of the average fatal car crash). While not at record levels, the number of crashes in California has been creeping up steadily.
Orange County Truck Accident Lawyer
While the driver was the only fatality and no one else was injured in the Atwater crash, that’s not always the case. In April, a crash and subsequent fire involving a tanker, two other trucks, and at least five other vehicles, left one dead and ten injured on the I-5 near Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
If you’ve been injured in a crash involving a commercial truck, the experienced truck accident law team at Kohan & Bablove, LLP can help. Contact us online today using the form at the bottom of this page or call 1-844-404-2400 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.