Truckers describe the crunch of metal and screech of tires during a crash in the Newhall Pass. Toni Guinyard reports for the NBC4 News at noon on Oct. 23, 2012.
Fire-rescue crews extricated a truck driver who was trapped in his cab after a series of big rig crashes early Tuesday in the Newhall Pass truck route tunnel at the 5 and 14 freeway interchange.
The trapped driver was in a truck that was pinned between a wall of the tunnel -- site of a deadly 2007 pileup and fire -- and one of 11 big rigs involved in the crashes. Initial reports indicated that nine trucks were involved in the crashes, but the California Highway Patrol later revised the figure to 11 trucks.
"This person was trapped with the entire dash of the semi-truck onto his lower extremities, making it extremely difficult to free him," said LA County Fire Battalion Chief Mark Savage. "It seems like he might have some lower extremity injuries, but he's actually doing pretty good, considering what he's been through."
The driver remained hospitalized Tuesday morning.
The truck route at the interchange is closed, but the auto route through the Newhall Pass remains open. The truck route closure is expected to last until about 3 p.m., according to Caltrans.
At about 9:45 a.m., crews began moving the crashed trucks from the south side of the tunnel.
The first crash was reported at about 2:20 a.m.
"There appear to be two separate collisions," said CHP Officer John Lutz. "We have nine trucks smashed down there. It goes roof to ceiling, wall to wall."
The first involved four trucks, including a dump truck. A second collision involved five more trucks, Lutz said.
"I came to a stop, and I sort of gathered myself, and I could hear the tires screeching and I could just hear the banging sound," said truck driver Angel Flores.
The driver of the dump truck told NBC4 the road was wet after rain early Tuesday. All 11 truck drivers will be interviewed as part of the crash investigation.
"It might be unsafe speed that we're looking at," said Lutz. "It was drizzling early this morning and some of the residual water through that tunnel might been an associated factor, but it's not the cause of that collision."
In October 2007, three people were killed a fiery pile-up in the interchange tunnel that involved more than 30 big rigs. Tuesday's crash did not involve a fire, Savage said.
"We were very fortunate there was no fire," said Savage. "Similar conditions in this tunnel created a very intense fire. If we would have had a leak and fire, this would have been a whole different situation."
Flores was a few miles from the tunnel when the 2007 crash occurred. He was re-routed around the crash site as crews cleared debris and conducted repair work that required about two days to complete.
"You don't forget something like that," Flores said of the 2007 crash.