Big-rig trucks, cars and a school bus slammed into each other in a 94-vehicle wreck on a fogbound mountain interstate Friday. One person died and 46 were injured, 11 critically, authorities said.
It was the second major pileup in California in four months blamed on poor visibility.The series of chain-reaction collisions occurred in the southbound lanes of I-15 near the top of 4,190-foot Cajon Pass between the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains. Visibility was 20 feet at the time, California Highway Patrol dispatcher Antonio Gonzalez said.
A milelong stretch of freeway was littered with mangled cars and jackknifed big rigs. Crumpled automobiles were wedged beneath trailers and spun-out cars were scattered along the median.
Among motorists caught was Ray Cude of Barstow, who said he tried to avoid hitting a jackknifed big-rig truck and was slammed from behind.
"We could hear them hitting from behind us," said Cude, who was uninjured. "Just bang, bang, bang hitting."
More than half the vehicles were tractor-trailer rigs, said Bill Peters, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.
The school bus caught in the pileup was carrying 65 sixth-graders and adults from Puesta Del Sol Elementary School in the desert town of Victorville. None was seriously hurt. They were on a field trip to an airport, said Peter Chavis, a school spokesman.
The yellow bus was sandwiched between two trucks and a big-rig had sideswiped it, shredding open the driver's area.
"We hit this thing and I saw the window go in," said sixth-grader Jason Zamudio, 12. "The bus driver fell down and then we got hit in back."
Tom Baird, 61, a hotel manager from Bakersfield whose car slammed into a car stopped in the middle of the foggy road, said, "It was absolute chaos.
"By the time I broke out of the fog I could see there wasn't anything I could do about it," he said. "It's just like that car in front of me did not exist."
Some recent freeway car pileups blamed on fog, dust or smoke:
- Nov. 29, 1991: 17 killed and 150 injured in a 164-vehicle pileup on I-5 near Coalinga, Calif., about 160 miles southeast of San Francisco.
- Jan. 2, 1991: Four killed in a 50-car pileup on I-215 in Utah.
- Dec. 11, 1990: 13 killed and more than 50 injured in an 83-vehicle pileup on I-75, about 40 miles northeast of Chattanooga, Tenn.
- March 12, 1990: Three killed, 30 injured in a 52-car pileup on I-43 in Green Bay, Wis.
- Dec. 30, 1988: Six killed, 18 injured in a 23-car pileup on I-74, about 120 miles south of Chicago.