A traffic hazard on Highway 99 in Turlock set in motion a chain reaction of collisions that sent one young boy to the hospital via air ambulance and prompted a closure of the freeway Monday morning.
The 3-year-old boy was pinned in his car seat by a big rig tire that had smashed into the minivan that he was riding in. Crews from the Turlock Fire Department were able to free the child and his injuries were not considered life-threatening, said California Highway Patrol spokesperson Officer Thomas Olsen.
The incident began around 11 a.m. on northbound Highway 99, near the W. Main Street off-ramp.
A bed liner in the fast lane of northbound Highway 99 near Fulkerth caused a three-vehicle collision shortly before 11 a.m. There were no injuries reported in the crash, though it did cause traffic to slow in the area. A 2009 Freightliner approaching the slowed vehicles was unable to stop in time and collided with the minivan, which then prompted a chain of collisions. A total of seven vehicles were involved in the collisions, according to the CHP.
The driver’s side front tire of the big rig crashed into the rear portion of a minivan, crushing the back of it and trapping the boy in his car seat, which was located in the third row. Turlock Fire crews gained access into the minivan and immediately assessed the child. They determined the use of a heavy wrecker tow-truck was necessary to lift the truck off of the minivan in order to extricate and free the child.
An air ambulance had already been dispatched and was landing on the freeway to take the young boy to the Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera.
“This was a highly technical rescue situation which requires a very specific skill set,” said Turlock Fire Department’s Acting Fire Chief Gary Carlson. “The firefighters on scene recently conducted extensive training on similar scenarios, which most certainly assisted with this situation’s positive outcome. I am very proud of the work done by the firefighters and am grateful for the fast, professional response of the tow company that assisted.”
One adult woman in a separate vehicle was transported to Emanuel Medical Center via ground ambulance with minor injuries.
The collision and the need for the air ambulance prompted the CHP to briefly close the freeway in both directions. The southbound lanes were quickly reopened, but the northbound lanes remained closed for several hours for extensive clean-up.
The big rig truck had been carrying a tandem trailer loaded with bulk raisins that spilled out across the highway in the collision. Cal Trans utilized heavy equipment to pick up the raisins and Turlock Fire provided a wash-down of the slippery residue, in conjunction with a Cal Trans street sweeper.
All north bound lanes of Highway 99 were closed for approximately two hours and later opened to only one lane for approximately two more hours, causing major traffic congestion on both the highway and the city streets in Turlock where traffic had been diverted.