TUJUNGA — A truck hauling a 28-foot trailer carrying about 40 dairy cows struck two other vehicles early Wednesday morning on the Foothill Freeway, causing the trailer to partially overturn, leaving nine animals dead and closing a one-mile stretch of road for nine hours.
John Anker was driving west in the freeway's fast lane near La Tuna Canyon Road about 12:40 a.m. when his truck struck a big rig stopped behind a small utility trailer that had become unhitched from yet another truck, said Officer Jordan Van Meeter, a spokesman for the CHP.
The vehicle pulling the utility trailer was parked on the freeway's right shoulder as the driver called for help. Anker's 1996 Peterbilt truck struck the big rig, spun out of control, then struck the parked truck and a freeway guardrail before finally coming to a stop on the right shoulder, Van Meeter said.
"I didn't see the big rig until it was too late, and I just thought to myself, 'Don't let go, hang on,' " said Anker, 41, of Ontario. "I didn't want to die."
The cattle trailer that Anker's truck was pulling fell partially on its left side, piling the cows inside on top of one another and causing eight to suffocate. A ninth cow suffered a broken back and was euthanized.
The carcasses were taken to the Wildlife Waystation in Little Tujunga Canyon to be used as feed for the lions and tigers at the animal rescue center, Van Meeter said. The surviving cows were transferred to another truck and transported to Bakersfield.
Anker said he was not seriously injured, suffering only bruises and some back pain. No other injuries were reported, authorities said.
"I'm lucky to be alive," said Anker, a trucker since 1976 and owner of Anker Trucking in Ontario. "God was just watching over me."
All four lanes of the westbound Foothill Freeway were shut down from Lowell Avenue to La Tuna Canyon Road for nine hours, frustrating early-morning commuters and causing major traffic tie-ups, Van Meeter said.