Fiery crash between big rig, Prius results in fatality
Special to the Sierra Sun
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — A fiery two-car crash resulted in one fatality, a fire, a closed highway for several hours and thousands of gallons of fuel left unaccounted for.
A tanker truck carrying 8,400 gallons of gasoline was traveling eastbound on U.S. Highway 50 at 11:45 a.m. Saturday when a Toyota Prius turned south off of Elks Club Drive in front of the truck, according to South Lake Tahoe CHP.
The truck tried to swerve but still struck the left side of the Prius. The impact caused the truck to roll onto its left side and slide across the westbound lane of the highway. The metal guardrail stopped the truck but damage to the gasoline tank led to a fuel leak, said the CHP.
According to the accident report, “a fire ignited and the tanker truck became fully engulfed in flames.”
The 36-year-old driver of the tanker truck was found deceased after the fire was put out. His name has not been released.
The Prius slid off the embankment but the driver was able to exit his vehicle. He was transported to the hospital with a broken femur.
Responders were on the scene within 5 minutes after the call went out. Lake Valley Fire was on scene and requested help from Cal Fire and U.S. Forest Service Fire.
The freeway was closed until 2 a.m. when one lane was opened, the freeway fully reopened at 8 a.m., according to Caltrans District 3.
The environmental impact is yet to be determined.
Caltrans Public Information Officer Steve Nelson said the clean up crew was able to remove about 1,500 gallons of fuel from the site. The rest of the tank is unaccounted for. A hazmat team from Fremouw Environmental Services out of Dixon is surveying the site. They cannot yet say whether any of the fuel leaked into the Upper Truckee River.
In the meantime, Caltrans has begun work on repairing the damage from the accident.
According to Nelson, 1,000 tons of asphalt was damaged during the fire and the guardrail needs to be replaced.
He said Caltrans can’t start on some of the work until the hazmat team is done but they are going to begin replacing some of the road signs that burned.
Drugs and alcohol were ruled out as a factor in the accident.
Laney Griffo is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in South Lake Tahoe. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org