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Reopens after early-morning crash

UPDATE: I-5

October 27, 2009|By Zain Shauk

A big rig truck barreled through a center divider early Tuesday on the Golden State (5) Freeway and caught fire, injuring several motorists and snarling the morning commute after authorities temporarily closed all southbound traffic lanes. The truck hit five cars and launched fragments of the wall into two other vehicles as it simultaneously burst into flames, said California Highway Patrol Officer Andre Primeaux.

Two people were hospitalized with minor injuries and officials were forced to shut down all southbound lanes immediately following the collisions just north of Alameda Avenue, Primeaux said.

“It was a nasty crash,” he said.

Jose Romero, of San Diego, lost control of his big rig after he slammed on his brakes to avoid what he said was a loose tire bouncing across the freeway in the early morning darkness.

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Authorities did not find a tire at the scene and could not confirm why Romero made the sudden change in direction, Primeaux said.

“It was such a violent change of events,” Primeaux said.

Romero did not appear to be intoxicated and will not be charged with a crime, although he will be cited for violating the state’s Vehicle Code, Primeaux said.

Romero was driving northbound at 5:51 a.m. when he said he spotted a stray tire coming from the opposite side of the freeway and bouncing as high as his truck’s windshield as it entered the southbound lanes.

When he hit the brakes, the truck’s trailer began to fishtail and he lost control of the vehicle, which veered left and hit cars in the two lanes nearest the center divider, Romero said.

He then rammed through the barrier and hit three more cars before the truck came to a halt, straddling both sides of the freeway, he said.

When Romero noticed the flames, he darted from the vehicle as the fire spread, he said.

“Fortunately, there were only minor injuries,” Primeaux said.

Lanes on both sides of the freeway remained closed through much of the morning as the Burbank Fire Department responded to the blaze and state transportation officials assessed the integrity of the divider and made minor repairs.

Crews with the California Department of Transportation put a temporary guard rail in place to patch up a 12-foot gap in the cement barrier and were cleaning up diesel fuel to prevent it from seeping into drainage systems, said Caltrans engineer Sam Esquenazi.

Officials also spent hours removing debris from the crash and lifting the truck’s charred and mangled cab from the freeway.

There was no damage to the truck’s trailer.

All lanes were reopened at 11:14 a.m., according to the CHP.

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