UPDATE, 4:50 pm – Caltrans Public Information Officer Florene Trainor confirmed that Caltrans does have a Hazmat team on scene at the accident. She said paint and chemicals spilled from one of the trucks. Trainor said that the fire that started this afternoon is now out and the Hazmat team is tearing the truck apart to be hauled away. Meanwhile, the highway, at last report, remained closedf.
UPDATE, 3PM: The California Highway Patrol now reports that Heinar Carrilloromero, 37, was driving a 2000 freight liner and at 4:23 am turned his tractor/trailer southbound on 395 into the No. 2 lane from the Division Creek rest area.
Andrew Durham, 49, of Hesperia, was driving a 2006 International tractor/double trailer southbound on 395 in the No. 2 lane behind Carrilloromero who was building his speed up after the turn onto 395 from the rest area.
The CHP says for unknown reasons, Mr. Durham did not see the other truck. Durham hit the rear of Carrilloromero’s semi. After the collision, Durham’s tractor and front trailer caught fire. Durham was able to free himself from his vehicle and sustained minor injuries.
Durham was transported to Northern Inyo Hospital. Carrilloromero was not injured. Although the CHP did not reveal details, it has been reported that paint was in one of these trucks and caught fire, emitting a very toxic fume along with smoke. CHP does say “several first responders were also transported to Northern Inyo Hospital with minor injuries.”
Around 2:30 Thursday afternoon, a still burning big rig ignited the brush in the center median of 395. High winds and zero visibility due to blowing dirt near the accident scene added to the fire and accessibility problems. Caltrans said that Highway 395 is in full closure due to the fire. There is currently no estimated time of opening.
At about 4:30 this morning, two semi-trucks were involved in a major accident north of the Division Creek Rest Area, about 10 miles north of Independence. At least one of the trucks was carrying a load of paint which caught fire and created very toxic fumes. Many first responders were overcome and hospitalized.
The California Highway Patrol is in charge of this incident. At last report, the key officers were still on scene and unavailable to fill us in on details.
Inyo Sheriff Bill Lutze was also on scene this morning and told us that to the best of his knowledge one of the trucks was in an accident and the truck following him then was also involved. Again, these details are currently sketchy. Some reports said the two trucks are from the same company and were traveling together.
The collision caused the paint in one of the trucks to spill and catch fire. The fumes were so toxic that fire and law enforcement responders had to be hospitalized. It was reported that the two drivers of the trucks were flown out of the area to another hospital.
Caltrans brought in a Hazmat crew to work on the toxic spill. Both lanes of Highway 395 remained closed with traffic routed around the accident scene to a detour on the Aberdeen Rd. There were still concerns about the toxic fumes as the trucks continued to emit clouds of smoke.
A command center was set up for CHP with help from the Inyo Sheriff. Volunteer firefighters, Caltrans crews and CHP remained on scene this morning.