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Rain-Loosened Boulder Crashes Into Car : Accident: It rolls off a hillside and strikes a pickup truck on Ortega Highway, leaving the driver shaken but unhurt.

October 06, 1994|JEFF BEAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Heavy-equipment operator David Munoz thought he could relax Wednesday afternoon when he was sent home early from a Coto de Caza job site because of the rain.

But the rain created a life-threatening surprise for Munoz on his way home to Perris. A 500-pound boulder dislodged from a hillside off Ortega Highway and crashed into his vehicle.

The boulder rolled down about 12:30 p.m. and smashed into the right side of Munoz's pickup truck, sending the vehicle toward a ravine on the opposite side of the winding two-lane highway.

The 31-year-old Munoz, who was shaken but unhurt, said he steered hard to the right to keep from going over the edge. His truck overturned on the pavement, landing on its roof.

Munoz was wearing a seat belt, authorities said.

John Groves, a California Highway Patrol officer, said Munoz was traveling east at about 30 m.p.h. about half a mile past the Riverside County line when the boulder suddenly dislodged from about 20 feet above.

"The rain just loosened it, and that's all it takes," Groves said.

Munoz, who sat on the side of the highway as emergency personnel directed traffic, said he didn't know what had struck his truck when he felt the hefty jolt.

"I just saw a big shadow from the side," he said. "It hit the truck and it kicked like it was going to go over the hill. I feel real lucky. I'd rather be up here than down there."

The accident slowed traffic on the remote portion of the highway for about an hour as crews waited for a tow truck.

Forestry workers rolled the boulder to the side of the roadway.

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