TEMECULA, Calif — At least 40 vehicles, including six big-rig trucks, piled up in a series of accidents on fog-shrouded Highway 215 in southern Riverside County this morning, killing at least one person, injuring more than seven others and closing the road in both directions for four hours, officials said.
The collisions began about 6:30 a.m. on the freeway near Scott Road between Temecula and Sun City, 70 miles east of Los Angeles, according to California Highway Patrol Capt. Ralph Limon.
"The fog was pretty bad," Limon said. "At times visibility was less than 10 feet, and people just kept running into each other."
Highway 215 is a major artery from San Diego to Riverside. The flat section of freeway runs through farmland interspersed with new tract home developments.
Tina Vawser, 41, said she was her on way to work in Riverside when the hazy weather seemed to be breaking. "All of a sudden the fog dropped down like a curtain . . . There was zero visibility and I slammed on my brakes." Vawser said that she rear-ended the car in front of her and that when both drivers stopped and got out of their cars we "could hear other crashes in the fog."
Hit From Behind
Ernie Reynoso, 32, of Temecula also stopped his truck in the dense fog when another car hit his Toyota pickup from behind. That started a chain-reaction behind him. "In the fog I could hear brakes squealing and crunch, crunch, crunch," Reynoso said.
Tim Sanders, a CHP officer called to the scene, said that "considering how many cars were involved, I am surprised that more people were not hurt." Sanders said that in addition to the poor visibility, many of those involved in accidents were "just driving too fast."
CHP Sgt. Jim Waterbury said the initial accident was believed to have occurred in a northbound lane of 215 between Scott Road and Newport Road. The last of the accidents occurred at about 7:30 a.m. The highway was closed until 11 a.m.
Caltrans, CHP and Riverside County Fire Department responded to the accidents in addition to 25 tow trucks.