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For Drivers, Spilled Tar on I-5 Is the Pits

September 20, 2003|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

A tanker truck overturned Friday on Interstate 5 in Laguna Hills, spilling 3,300 gallons of hot tar and backing up traffic for miles.

"It's just a parking lot," said Officer Stacy Willits, a spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol. The accident occurred near the heavily traveled El Toro Y, where the San Diego and Santa Ana freeways merge.

Both freeways were jammed for most of the afternoon, Willits said. The incident also affected other area freeways and surface streets as drivers tried to find a way around the spill.

The accident occurred about 12:15 p.m., Willits said, when a two-axle tank trailer full of hot asphalt slurry that was being towed by a three-axle truck overturned in the southbound lanes near El Toro Road.

The driver, Richard Alletag, 42, of San Diego, told investigators that a compact car had cut him off, causing him to brake hard, veer left and lose control of his rig, Willits said.

"As soon as it hits the surface of the asphalt," she said, "the tar solidifies. The freeway is going to have to be scraped."

The resulting lane closures, she said, backed up traffic for more than five miles in both directions on the two freeways.

No injuries were reported and Alletag was not cited, Willits said. The cause is under investigation, she said.

The incident was one of at least eight major freeway mishaps that bedeviled Southern California motorists Friday.

One of the worst occurred in Alhambra, where a fiery big-rig crash on the San Bernardino Freeway delayed some Metrolink trains. A spill near San Clemente, this of hydrogen peroxide, kept traffic on southbound Interstate 5 snarled for hours.

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